Senate Theatre

3128 W. Madison Street,
Chicago, IL 60612

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Senate Theater marque 1972

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The 3,097-seat Senate Theatre was originally opened on February 12, 1921 in the Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago. The theatre was located on Madison Street near Albany Avenue, close to Garfield Park itself.

It was built for the Lubliner & Trinz circuit but its management was taken over five years later by Balaban & Katz.

In its first decade or so of operation, it featured both live stage shows and movies as well as a 3/17 Kimball organ, but by WWII, had switched to movies only.

Larger and more luxurious theatres like the Paradise Theatre and Marbro Theatre nearby drew audiences away from the Senate Theatre, and by the 1950’s, it was already falling into decline.

During its last years, it screened Spanish-language films. It finally was closed in 1969, and torn down eight years later.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 6, 2009 at 9:55 pm

This is from Boxoffice magazine in April 1962:

The Senate Theater in Chicago made front page headlines when a lion refused to carry out his feature role in a stage show which had the house filled to capacity. The lion, named Hank, had been trained to do a disappearing act in a magician program. To get the lion, Charles Gomez, owner of the Senate, had to buy him from the Animal Kingdom pet shop. When he steadfastly refused to perform, Gomez decided to raffle him off. He was won by a couple who didn’t know how to handle him and Hank was returned to the pet shop-but no refund to Gomez.

KenC
KenC on June 10, 2010 at 11:08 pm

In “IMAGES of AMERICA- CHICAGO’S JEWISH WEST SIDE” by Irving Cutler, there is a shot of the Senate Theatre on page 89. It is closed, with the marquee damaged. According to the text, it was ruined after the riots of 1968. Closed March 1973.

BobbyS
BobbyS on January 31, 2011 at 1:42 am

I bought the book and went to a lecture by Irving Cutler. Does anyone remember “Little Joe’s” across the street from the theater? They had a wonderful N.Y. cheesecake. I really believed the Marbro would outlive them all, even the Alex. It was the most beautiful and in a better central area than any of the others.

SBGreig
SBGreig on June 21, 2011 at 6:35 pm

You’re thinking of “Little Jack’s”. Zoom down the Street View until you see Edna’s on the left. That’s where it was. Somewhere in CTA’s photo archives is/was a picture of a westbound Madison streetcar with the restaurant (and the Senate) plainly visible.

Yes, they were legendary for their ricotta-and-raisins cheesecake (the recipe can be found on the ‘Net with some effort) and lasted until 1962, another casualty of the changing neighborhood.

This may bring back a few memories of Little Jack’s:

http://chuckmanchicagonostalgia.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/little-jacks-restaurant-3175-west-madison-at-kedzie-four-images-plus-logo/

BobbyS
BobbyS on June 21, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Thanks SBGreig for the info. It is very nice to remember such wonderful memories where our family would visit together especially after a movie. I really did think the Marbro would outlive the Senate. I couldn’t believe when the Marbro was closed for good and the Senate was still operating!

rivest266
rivest266 on June 27, 2012 at 6:50 pm

February 12th, 1921 grand opening ad with close-ups has been uploaded here.

BobbyS
BobbyS on June 28, 2012 at 12:55 am

Thanks rivest266 for the photos plus all the rest you have presented. Enjoyed them all. I still say it was hard to understand the MARBRO closing and the demolition following and the Senate still showing pictures. Madison & Crawford area wasn’t that bad yet.

RickB
RickB on November 22, 2014 at 4:38 pm

From February 20, 1977, a brief article on the Senate’s demolition, treating it as an example of the many theaters torn down in the city’s neighborhoods. There’s a picture, but it’s from microfilm and so not very good. The movie listings on the page are better.

BobbyS
BobbyS on November 23, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Thanks for posting Rick. Great to read all the movie ads of the day.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on December 26, 2014 at 10:40 am

Just added a 1934 photo courtesy of Gregory Russell. Early marquee and blade sign.

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