Uptown Chicago Resources

Historic Theatres & Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz

Historic Theatres of Balaban and Katz: Will Rogers Theatre

Facade detail of the Will Rogers Theatre, 1987. © Bruce Sharp. Visit Lost Palaces: A Gallery of Old Movie Theatres for more of his work. Image courtesy of www.Mekong.net; used with permission.

Historic Theatres of Balaban and Katz: Will Rogers Theatre

The Will Rogers Theatre, early 1970s. The vertical marquee and part of the decorative facade had already been removed. Image courtesy HAARGIS.

The Will Rogers Theatre — A Brief History

The Will Rogers Theatre, located at 5641 W. Belmont at Parkside in Portage Park, Chicago, opened in 1936. It was designed by Rapp & Rapp, who were no doubt influenced by the Century of Progress World’s Fair held in Chicago in 1933, and named after Will Rogers, who had died the year before. William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers (November 4, 1879 — August 15, 1935) was an American comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer, and actor. He was perhaps the most popular entertainer of his day, famous for his quip: “My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat.”

In 1987, the Will Rogers Theater was demolished to make way for yet another strip mall.

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