Uptown Chicago Resources

Historic Theatres & Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz

The Chicago Theatre — A Brief History

Historic Theatres of Balaban and Katz: Chicago Theatre

The Chicago Theatre was built in 1921 for the Balaban and Katz theatre chain of Chicago. Image courtesy CRCC.

Before they built the Uptown Theatre at Lawrence and Broadway, the Balaban and Katz chain was already operating the very successful Chicago Theatre at 175 N. State Street. When it opened in 1921, the Chicago Theatre was known as “The Wonder Theatre of the World.” It was designed by architects Cornelius W. Rapp and George L. Rapp, the same team who would later be responsible for the Uptown. The classic French-revival baroque-styled building was completed at a cost of $4 million. The exterior of the theatre features a miniature replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, while the grand lobby was modeled after the Royal Chapel of Versailles. The grand staircase is reminiscent of the Paris Opera House.

The Chicago Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and designated as a historic Chicago landmark on January 28, 1983. In was closed in 1985. In 1986, the Chicago Theatre Restoration Association bought the theatre and began an extensive restoration. Chicago-based architects Daniel P. Coffey & Associates and design consultants A.T. Heinsbergen & Company headed the restoration. The Chicago Theatre reopened in 1986 with a performance by Frank Sinatra.

In 2004, Theatre Dreams Chicago, LLC, purchased the Chicago Theatre, promising to continue to bring vibrant music, dance, and cultural events to the Loop.

Additional Images of the Chicago Theatre:

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