Southtown Theatre

610 W. 63rd Street,
Chicago, IL 60621

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Southtown auditorium

Viewing: Photo | Street View

As the Depression set in, the Southtown Theatre would be the last massive picture palace to be built in Chicago. It was located on W. 63rd Street to the west of S. Wallace Avenue and was built and operated by the Publix-Balaban & Katz theatre chain.

The theatre was designed by architectural firm Rapp & Rapp and opened in December, 1931 with Will Rogers in “Ambassador Bill” and Gary Cooper in “His Woman”. There were 2,201 seats on the main floor and another 1,000 in the balcony. The most incredible feature was the Flamingo Pool and fountain in the Grand Lobby which had a waterfall and live fish!

The floor plan of the theatre reveals a twin box office set up, a grand lobby, a grand inner lobby (site of the pool), a children’s playing room, a women’s lounge, a men’s lounge, an exit lobby, grand stairs to the lobby leading to a grand foyer, a huge auditorium plus a gently raked balcony.

There were dioramas on the mezzanine foyer which depicted well known Chicago historical events like the Great Fire of 1871. The 4/20 Wurlitzer organ was not original to the Southtown Theatre. It was moved there from the Congress Theatre in 1931 and was used only for a few years and then mostly neglected. It was left to deteriorate and ended up a casualty to a leaking roof.

The Southtown Theatre finally closed in August 1958. It was demolished in 1991 after serving for many years as Carr’s department store and after that, a flea market. An interesting note—two plaster musician busts from the Southtown ended up in the restored Lake Theatre in Oak Park, IL.

Contributed by Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 128 comments)

justinterested
justinterested on December 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I myself am 78, they don’t build theatres and anything with such grandeur any more. Englewood itself was a special place, as well as the Southtown and other theatres in that area. The days are long fone, but the memories will be around forever, as long as we oldsters are living.

rivest266
rivest266 on June 27, 2012 at 7:16 pm

This opened on Christmas day of 1931. Grand opening ad uploaded in the photo section.

smroz
smroz on June 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm

My husband and I salvaged a few chunks of cast terra cotta from the demolition site. I think I was going to a co-worker’s shower out on the South side – must have been the same summer as the demo – and DH (bin diver that he is) drove by and scrounged whatever he could. My mom and dad used to go there; she always told me how beautiful it was. I hope this site stays alive – I found it through a search for the Peoples theater (47th & Ashland) where we went as kids in the ‘50s. My girlfriend and I would walk from 55th and Hermitage to the movies on Saturday – 25c for under twelve.

imquirky
imquirky on November 28, 2013 at 5:18 pm

I was taken there as a child in the mid 1950’s to see Disney films. We lived at 59th and Lowe so we just walked there.

I recall the ponds inside with ducks swimming in them.

jennifermayberry
jennifermayberry on February 27, 2015 at 1:22 am

My father, Joe talked about this Theatre, and The Capital. He loved them, and lived in Englewood as a little boy in the 30’s and 40’s, near 71st and Lowe. Thank you so much for posting this. I also loved reading the comments. I had tried to remember the names of the theatres, but then found them in a school report I wrote on my dad about 25 years ago. I recorded his description of the fountains and statues that the pictures show, and the comments describe. Thank you again, this means a lot to me.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on February 28, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Original Southtown fountain found in a North Side salvage shop in 1999. Photo courtesy of John P. Keating Jr., added to Photos Section.

paulnelson
paulnelson on February 28, 2015 at 7:46 pm

Any pics of the auditorium? Great art deco tower and signage.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on February 28, 2015 at 7:49 pm

Click on “Photos” at the top. 3rd photo in is of the auditorium.

PaulBruce
PaulBruce on February 18, 2017 at 10:53 pm

I Believe thet the Southtown was the only one of the great movie palaces that stood free of surounding buildngs in its parking lot which may also have been unique. You could also see the immense size of the building and not just a facade.

It was walking distance from Englewood High in the 30'’s and we sometine passed it at a fast pace on our way to Wimpy hamburgers a little to the west. The problem was that Wimpy was walking distance from the school but lunch period was too short to stay there and eat. So we walked fast on our way there and back — but had to eat as we walked.

The sleek lies of the lobby were a contrast to the sometimes over ornate lobbies of other theaters. The swans in the lobby wwere probably the most elegant touch

Years later I wnet to the Carr Store in the theater but the sight was so despressing that I never went there again.

whtesoxfan56
whtesoxfan56 on September 30, 2017 at 12:58 am

It pains me to learn that theaters as beautiful as this, were demolished. Makes me hope even more that south side theaters such as the New Regal(aka Avalon), do reopen. At least that theater was in decent condition, when I visited it a few years ago during Open House Chicago.

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