Monroe Theatre

57 W. Monroe Street,
Chicago, IL 60603

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Monroe Theater Chicago

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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

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

On September 1, 1923, the theatre was reopened under new management as the Monroe Theatre. 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 theatre started to add adult films to its mix of programming.

The Monroe Theatre closed in May 1977 and was demolished in July 1977. Part of the Xerox Center (today known as 55W Monroe Building) is located on the site of the Monroe Theatre today.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 32 comments)

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on February 11, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Thanks for posting the vintage photo Bryan.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on February 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Yes,Bryan.thanks for taking the Time.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 15, 2012 at 11:57 pm

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 9:04 am

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 10:57 am

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 4:54 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

rivest266
rivest266 on November 13, 2016 at 10:10 am

This opened on September 1st, 1923. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

Broan
Broan on February 10, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Before Barbee, Ascher Brothers had intended to build a 3000 seat theater in the building June 1918, which would have been the first very large purpose-built movie theater in the Loop. This obviously fell through.

dsadowski
dsadowski on June 30, 2017 at 1:19 am

FYI, I have a blog about the Clark Theater, and a 1938 flyer I found for that venue also advertises the Monroe. This suggests that, at least in 1938, the Monroe was part of the Lubliner & Trinz chain. If you want to see what was playing there (second run and B-pictures), go here: https://theclarktheater.wordpress.com/

Khnemu
Khnemu on June 30, 2017 at 8:42 am

The Monroe was still open April 29, 1977 when the Chicago Tribune lists it as playing the X-rated “The Joy of Letting Go”, but a blurb in the Tribune from Gene Siskel less than a month later announces “The downtown Monroe theater will be demolished, and so it dies a soft-core skin house. It won’t be missed.” By August of 1977, demolition of the Monroe and three adjacent structures was completed, to make way for the 55 W. Monroe building, formerly the Xerox Center, which opened in 1980.

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