Monroe Theater

57 W. Monroe Street,
Chicago, IL 60603

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Ticket Booth

Viewing: Photo | Street View

One of the more modestly-sized Loop theaters, seating 950, the Monroe Theater’s history goes back to 1900 when the Inter-Ocean Building was constructed on the site of the Columbia Theater, which had been destroyed in a fire. In 1919, the Inter-Ocean Building was converted into a theater, which was originally operated by showman William S. Barbee and called Barbee’s Loop Theater, also known as just Barbee’s Theater.

When Barbee tried to have a stage built in the theater, the city prevented it, because of the lack of enough emergency exits.

In 1923, the theater was reopened under new management as the Monroe Theater. In the 1930’s or 1940’s, the entrance and interior to the building was given an Art Deco style makeover.

By the 1950’s, it was showing B-grade sci-fi and horror films. In the early-1960’s, the theater started to add adult films to its mix of programming.

The Monroe Theater closed by the late-1970’s and was demolished not long after. Part of the Xerox Center is located on the site of the Monroe Theater today.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 28 comments)

Broan
Broan on January 27, 2009 at 1:14 am

Something like the Hotel La Salle garage that was at Washington and Wells? View link

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on January 27, 2009 at 1:19 am

Yes!, exactly. But with much less obvious parking signage. I remember the one on Monroe had just small neon arrows for In & Out. Hikers took the cars from patrons once inside.

KenC
KenC on June 17, 2009 at 3:16 am

On Tuesday, Jan.20, 1959, the Monroe had the Chicago premiere of “PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.” The co- feature was “TIME LOCK.” From the fairly large ad display in the Sun Times: 2 SCIENCE-FICTION THRILLERS Flying saucers endanger us all with their…PLAN 9 from OUTER SPACE BELA LUGOSI VAMPIRA ALL NEW Plus- A CITY PITTED AGAINST 6 HOURS OF OXYGEN! TIME LOCK.

JudithK
JudithK on May 21, 2010 at 12:44 am

Never got into the Monroe Theatre – again, it must have been the bookings = but worked at the Xerox Centre for a while.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on February 12, 2011 at 3:56 am

Thanks for posting the vintage photo Bryan.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on February 16, 2011 at 1:06 am

Yes,Bryan.thanks for taking the Time.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 16, 2012 at 4:57 am

Here is an item about this theater from the March 8, 1919, issue of Chicago’s regional business magazine, The Economist:

“Architects Postle & Fischer, 140 South Dearborn street, have completed plans and are receiving bids on the general work for remodeling the former three-story Inter Ocean building, 69x190, Nos. 55 to 59 West Monroe street, into a thoroughly modern motion-picture theater for Harry C. Moir and Wm. S. Barbee. The entire rear portion will be wrecked, and the building reconstructed up from grade, with brick walls and reinforced concrete floor and roof. It will have a seating capacity of 1,000 persons, all on one floor. The design of the interior will be an adaptation of the Spanish renaissance style. The lobby, foyer and spectatorium will be finished in tile, twenty feet high, surmounted by ornamental plaster cornice and ceiling. Special attention has been paid to the color scheme and light effect, which will be unique. An air washing ventilation system and a costly pipe organ will be installed. The improvements are estimated to cost $115,000 to $125,000.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm

The name Fischer is currently misspelled in the architect field.

John B. Fischer was for a time the chief designer of the Chicago office of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, the Boston firm that succeeded the practice of Henry Hobson Richardson. Fisher continued to practice architecture in Chicago after the firm of Postle & Fischer was dissolved in 1920 or 1921.

According to an item in the August 10, 1921, issue of Engineering and Contracting, architect David E. Postle had recently moved to Los Angeles. He practiced architecture in Southern California for several more years, mostly in partnership with his son George R. Postle. They were especially active in the Glendale and Pasadena areas.

As the original facade of the Inter-Ocean Building was retained in the rebuilding, i’s original architect should also be credited. This blog post about the building (which includes two nice photos) gives his name as W. Carbys Zimmerman.

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on November 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on May 23, 2014 at 9:54 pm

The Monroe is seen at 2:25-3:17 in this Vivian Maier film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXASDjCwxsE&feature=youtu.be

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