Marbro Theatre

4110 W. Madison Street,
Chicago, IL 60624

Unfavorite 21 people favorited this theater

Marbro Theatre Exterior 1929

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Marbro Theatre was designed by Edward Eichenbaum for the firm of Levy & Klein, whose other notable Chicago theaters included the Granada Theatre and the Diversey Theatre (better known by its later name, the Century Theatre), for the Marks Brothers chain (hence the theater’s name).

The Marbro Theatre opened in 1927 on Madison Street and Karlov Avenue, not far from the spectacular Paradise Theater, which would open a year later. The almost-4,000 seat Marbro Theatre was at the time one of the biggest theaters in Chicago, and not only drew its audience from Garfield Park, but the whole West Side of the city, as well as the bordering suburbs, all but stifling the competition.

Built in the Spanish Baroque style, including a flamboyant terra-cotta facade, the Marbro Theatre wowed first-time visitors with its massive stage and proscenium arch, its soaring lobby (with a two-story marble staircase and small tree-sized European crystal chandelier) and Mighty Wurlitzer 5 manual 21 rank organ.

The trade paper, Variety, wrote at the time that “…its beauty is loud, but beauty nonetheless”.

Opening day featured a parade with Garfield Park’s most prominent businessmen, the Gloria Swanson film, “The Loves of Sunya”, and performances by bandleader Benny Meroff and organist Albert Brown. Though critics warned the Marks Brothers that they’d have trouble filling the 4,000 seat theater, they were silenced when the Marbro Theatre began to draw patrons away from the nearby and longer established 3,000 seat Senate Theatre and smaller theaters in the area.

The opening of the Paradise Theatre around the block renewed speculation that the Marbro Theatre would falter, but the Marbro Theatre didn’t miss a beat, and in fact, once sound films became standard by the late-1920’s, it became the favored of the two, since the Paradise Theatre was notorious for its horrible accoustics almost from the day it opened (a tragic flaw that ultimately doomed the palatial theater).

On November 1, 1929, Marks Brothers sold the Marbro Theatre to Balaban & Katz (along with the Granada Theatre in Rogers Park that same day). The theater continued the format of live stage shows and films through the 1940’s.

The Marbo’s huge size worked against it eventually, and by the 1950’s, with the popularity of television, Balaban & Katz struggled to keep it even partly filled, and in 1963, it was closed.

Sadly, this magnificent giant was razed in 1964.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 268 comments)

amoswald
amoswald on January 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Ted – check out my stories for some memories.

Links to West Side Girl essays:

Saturday at the Movies http://thewriteplaceatthewritetime.org/ourstoriesnonfiction.html If I Were 21 I’d Vote for Kennedy http://fairclothreview.com/if-i-were-21-id-vote-for-kennedy-by-anita-oswald/ Aidan’s Road Trip http://fatcityreview.com/beta/aidans-road-trip-anita-solick-oswald/ Some Assembly Required http://fatcityreview.com/some-assembly-required-anita-solick-oswald/ Bethlehem on Madison Street http://fairclothreview.com/bethlehem-on-madison-street-by-anita-solick-oswald/ Hot Diggity Dog and Interview http://www.thewriteplaceatthewritetime.org/firstannualcontest.html Leaves http://www.thewriteplaceatthewritetime.org/fiction.html

TedTheodoreFRIE
TedTheodoreFRIE on January 24, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Im just going crazy right now. My mom used to take us out for a dinner night to Walgreens on madison and Pulaski or the expensive one on keeler and madison on the SE corner. Man going trick or treating on Halloween on madison with my brothers . Went to the ALEX , Byrd , and another one on Austin and MADISON. wow . THE MEMORIES TED

TedTheodoreFRIE
TedTheodoreFRIE on January 24, 2013 at 5:38 pm

AND COLUMBUS PARK WAS THE ONLY PLACE WE WENT TO FOR SWIMMING.DO I HAVE REAL STORIES ABOUT THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD.WE STILL HAVE THE HOUSE AND MY SISTER LIVES THEIR ON CONGRESS AND KEELER. WE HAD TO TAKE TAP DANCING LESSONS ON MADISON JUST BEFORE PULASKI ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE STREET. BUT OFF THE STREET CLUB WAS THE BEST

amoswald
amoswald on January 24, 2013 at 5:40 pm

All covered in my stories

amoswald
amoswald on January 24, 2013 at 5:40 pm

All covered in my stories

BobbyS
BobbyS on February 5, 2013 at 1:04 am

Anita, What wonderful stories you tell! I hated to finish. I can feel your passion because I was there too. Your stories are excellent and I can hardly wait for more. Many many thanks…….

Griffinteam
Griffinteam on February 26, 2013 at 6:41 am

My Grandfather Jean Anthony Greif was an Organist at Marbro. He also performed at other theatres. He was a composer, organist, inventor and business Man. http://www.pstos.org/organists/wa/greif.htm

gabbygrillz
gabbygrillz on October 14, 2013 at 11:21 pm

wow ted most of that was before my time I came along in 64 but I grew up at off the street club and I just saw ralph last week! he is still same just older!

gabbygrillz
gabbygrillz on October 15, 2013 at 12:25 am

Anita really made me smile! reading of ol Madison street!

amoswald
amoswald on October 15, 2013 at 12:28 am

Thanks – lots more stories where that one came from.

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