Monroe Theatre

57 W. Monroe Street,
Chicago, IL 60603

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Showing 1 - 25 of 33 comments

rivest266 on August 9, 2020 at 3:06 pm

The Barbee’s Loop Theater opened on April 10th, 1920 and became the Monroe theatre on September 1st, 1923. Grand opening ads posted.

DavidZornig on February 1, 2019 at 6:56 am

Circa 1976 photo added credit Allan Zirlin. Both “Stateline Motel” and “Teenage Hitchhiker” had later U.S. releases than when originally released.

dsadowski on June 30, 2017 at 12:19 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:

Broan on February 10, 2017 at 12:16 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.

rivest266 on November 13, 2016 at 9:10 am

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

DavidZornig on May 23, 2014 at 3:54 pm

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

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on November 8, 2012 at 9:57 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!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 16, 2012 at 8:04 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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 15, 2012 at 10:57 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.”

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on February 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Yes,Bryan.thanks for taking the Time.

TLSLOEWS on February 11, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Thanks for posting the vintage photo Bryan.

JudithK on May 20, 2010 at 6:44 pm

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

KenC on June 16, 2009 at 9:16 pm

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.

DavidZornig on January 26, 2009 at 7:19 pm

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.

Broan on January 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm

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

DavidZornig on January 26, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Gone by early 1982 sounds right.
I walked up Monroe St. from State to Wacker, every evening from Sept.82-March83 for work at the old USG building. And I would have remembered a closed or boarded up theatre along my route, had it still been standing.

There was however along Monroe St., one of those old multi-level indoor parking garages, built to look from the outside like every other office building in the 1920’s.
The entrance & exit driveway doors were arched. And the upper floors had textured chicken-wire glass windows, to mask from the street that it housed cars. I believe it had an auto elevator inside too.

Sometimes I would come up early from the subway near the Chicago Theatre, and zig zag my way S/W past all the other theatres that were still standing in late `82.

KenC on January 26, 2009 at 5:17 pm

The Monroe played many horror/monster movies from 1957 to sometime in 1960. It must have been a success- here is more proof: From the Chicago Sun Times movie listings, Thursday June 6, 1957- HELD OVER! 2nd SCARY WEEK! NIGHTMARE THRILLS BEYOND BELIEF! “HALF HUMAN” plus “MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL”. 2 NEW FIRST RUN HITS MONROE NEVER OVER 87c. The Monroe almost always changed their program weekly… on Thursdays in the late 50s;Fridays from the early 60s through the 1970s. The wild and unusual titles, the cheap admission, and the posters and MANY stills that adorned the outside of the theatre undoubtedly helped the box office!

kencmcintyre on January 24, 2009 at 6:28 pm

This is from Boxoffice magazine, July 1957:

CHICAGO-According to James Jovan, owner and operator of the Monroe, even oldtime showmen who think they have all the answers for the type of films that go over with moviegoers have a struggle in meeting public taste. After running a series of old and new films, with a wide range of subject matter, his experiment with “Bride of the Monster” and “Fire Maidens from Outer Space” made the box office jingle louder than it has in many weeks.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on March 15, 2008 at 9:44 pm

“they began in the middle of the first movie!” if that isn’t the most interesting and craziest thing I ever heard of!!

“They showed the old movie theater, and half of it was gone.” Scott Ward

tombrueggemann on March 15, 2008 at 7:30 pm

The Monroe was by the 1970s the ultimate grind house – because of union rules, they needed to open at 9 am like other downtown theatres. They usually ran double features (New World, Crown, other indie exploitation distributors). They worked their schedule backward from the evening, and it usually meant that when they opened their doors at 9, they began in the middle of the first movie!

KenC on July 28, 2007 at 9:33 pm

Bryan…guess I was mistaken again. I didn’t see “FLESH GORDON” in 1973 or 1979, but in late January 1975. That means there were two crackdowns of downtown movie theatres in the 70s. I’m sure in 1979- Spring or Summer- Mayor Jane Byrne ordered a number of theatres closed (perhaps not the Monroe) but for sure the Oriental and the State-Lake, because of a rodent problem. I remember a quote from a city inspector re: the Oriental’s filthy conditions: when a dead mouse was found on a staircase, he said (I’m paraphrasing) “Gee, they don’t even bother to sweep the stairs”. To RickB: I suspect you’re right; highly doubtful the Monroe lasted into 1981 or early 82. On Wed. April 14, 1976, the Monroe was playing “BLAZING STEWARDESSES” plus “SWITCHBLADE SISTERS”. After that , the Monroe disappeared from the movie listings (at least in the Sun-Times; not sure of the Tribune). It may have stayed open a while longer…maybe even to 1978-79. But I know that even in 1974-75, business was way down; a once crowded and clean theatre(1958 through 1969 when I went) was dirty and not well patronized. Perhaps the arrests Bryan mentioned in his post of 3-4-07 also contibuted to the Monroe’s demise, whenever it occured. One more memory of the Monroe: there was NEVER an intermission; ALWAYS something on the screen. The theatre sold hot dogs. In between the double features a colorful ad for the hot dogs played. A voice said “YUM….YUM… IT’S A MEAL IN ITSELF” as a bright red hot dog (with eyes and a mouth)slid into a bun, splashed mustard and relish on itself, and said something like “enjoy a treat…have one now” or something like that. Those were the days when you could buy a ticket at ,say, 11a.m. and stay to 5p.m. or 7p.m. if you so desired. Continuous performances, food, and sexy, unusual movies encouraged a few people to watch the movies more than once. The films would generally start at 9a.m. and run to midnight.

RickB on July 23, 2007 at 10:22 pm

For what it’s worth, several web pages give the completion date of the Xerox Center as 1980—meaning that the Monroe would have been gone some time before then.

KenC on March 6, 2007 at 8:41 pm

Bryan: The Monroe was never a gay porn theatre. The adult films were all soft core and straight. I think the theatre was too close to City Hall to play the hard core stuff. I’m not surprised by the article you posted. In the 60s, I went there often.As a teenager, I loved the off beat and wild, daring (for the time)films.Not many theatres played “CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER”, “ANGEL, ANGEL DOWN WE GO”, but the Monroe did. But didn’t like using the washroom. Down a VERY narrow staircase(across the aisle next to the concession stand)and making two right turns, you got to the mens room. Very similar to the washroom at the Logan, only smaller.Black and white tiles,three or four urinals,and a very low ceiling.Guys hanging around, leaning against the wall, many smoking. CLAUSTROPHOBIA! More than a few times I was surrounded- literally- and stared at. Guess this went on til the theatre closed. By the way, I was wrong in my first post… I did see “FLESH GORDON”, but not in 1973, but 1979. I mixed up the release year with the year I saw it at the Monroe. In 1979, Jane Byrne was elected mayor. In one of her early press conferences, she took a question from a woman who complained about the filthy conditions of some of the downtown movie theatres. Within a day or two, action was taken! The State-Lake, Oriental(a dead mouse was found on a staircase), and the Monroe(and perhaps a few others)were closed by the city.By a week or two, they all reopened; the Monroe featuring “FLESH GORDON”. But that big rat was there…as big as a cat. I never went back. One more memory of the Monroe(on a lighter note): the titles of the double features, when seen on the marquee, would sometimes cause one to do a double take,and smile. Jack Mabley, a columnist at the old Chicago Daily News(or was it Chicago Today?)wrote about passing the Monroe and seeing on the marquee: “SOMETHING’S HAPPENING” “INSIDE A GIRL’S DORMITORY”.Well, I guess any number of things would-could be happening inside! My own experience…outside the theatre, looking at the posters and the stills of “CANNIBAL GIRLS” plus “RAW MEAT”.

Broan on November 1, 2006 at 2:28 pm

Here is a postcard view of the building pre-remodeling

Broan on June 17, 2006 at 4:59 pm

Here is a profile from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s HAARGIS system. It includes a small picture.