Uptown Theatre News


Uptown Theatre News — April 26, 2006

Detail from the Grand Lobby.

Detail from the Grand Lobby.

Watch the Sneak Preview of the New Documentary Uptown: Portrait of a Palace

John Pappas and Michael Bisberg of Northwestern University have finished their documentary chronicling the history of the Uptown Theatre. We’ll post information as soon as it becomes available on where and when the screening of Uptown: Portrait of a Palace will take place, but for now you can download the trailer for a preview of what’s in store.

Chicago Movie Palaces Book.

A new book chronicling the history of the Balaban and Katz movie chain features the Uptown Theatre on its cover.

The Chicago Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz Now Available!

Text by David Balaban. Foreword by Joseph DuciBella. Published by Arcadia Publishing.

From the Cover — The Balaban and Katz Theater Corporation perfected the “movie palace” concept in Chicago, creating an extremely popular pastime that contributed greatly to Chicago’s cultural identity. The Balabans started in the movie theater business in 1908 by leasing the 100-seat Kedzie Nickelodeon on Kedzie Avenue. Balaban brothers Barney and A. J. dreamed of operating 5,000-seat movie palaces, so, in 1916, they joined family friends Sam and Morris Katz to form the Balaban and Katz Theater Corporation. Their mission was to offer an unrivaled theater-going experience with the finest live performances and service. They built ornate theaters, such as the Chicago, the Uptown, and the Congress Theaters, filling them with fine furnishings, antiques, and artwork. Balaban and Katz produced live stage shows between the movies with the likes of Bob Hope, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Goodman. Sadly, only a few of these gorgeous theaters still stand today.

Author David Balaban.

David Balaban.

Author David Balaban, 49, was born in Brooklyn, New York. He was named after his grandfather, one of the five Balaban brothers who ran Balaban and Katz Theatres in Chicago. He grew up on stories of these grand movie palaces. David’s grandfather managed the Uptown, Riviera, and Norshore Theaters in the 1920’s and was Director of Theater Operations for Balaban and Katz when he died suddenly in 1949.

A 1978 graduate of State University of New York at Buffalo, Balaban is currently employed as a teacher of television production and film at Gordon Parks Academy in East Orange, New Jersey, where he first got the idea of compiling and editing this photographic history of Balaban and Katz. While doing research for the book, he formed the Balaban and Katz Historical Foundation in order to house the vast collection of historical artifacts he has acquired.

Balaban is a member of The Theatre Historical Society of America and, of course, president of the Balaban and Katz Historical Foundation. When not doing research, Balaban enjoys working on his hundred-year-old Victorian house and spending time with his wife, Barbara, and two sons, Danny and Sam.

To Purchase Your Copy

The Chicago Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz is available through our affiliate link with Amazon.com. You may go directly to Balaban and Katz Book to purchase your copy. A small portion of the sale will go to Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads.

Balaban and Katz Magazine.

Balaban and Katz produced a weekly magazine for distribution in their theatres.

Download the Original Balaban and Katz Magazine About the Uptown Theatre!

We were lucky enough to pick up at auction the August 17, 1925 edition of Balaban and Katz Magazine. We’ve created a facsimile copy of the magazine so you can see all of the original articles and advertisements celebrating the opening of this flagship movie palace.

We’re always interested in acquiring historic items related to the Uptown Theatre. If you have any old postcards, magazines, or photographs you’d like to share please e-mail us at editor@compassrose.org.

Argyle-Broadway Building. (Click to enlarge.)

Another of Uptown’s lost treasures, this amazing terra cotta building from 1927 once stood on the corner of Broadway and Argyle. Date of demolition unknown. (Click to enlarge.) Image courtesy University of Minnesota Libraries, Manuscripts Division, Northwest Architectural Archives.

Visit 1930s Uptown!

Travel “Down the Shore to Uptown” for a rare look at the Uptown, Chicago neighborhood during its heyday. This 1930s vignette comes from Chicago: A Portrait written by Henry Justin Smith, one-time editor of the Chicago Daily News. Illustrated with vintage postcards and photographs of Uptown’s historic buildings. You may read Smith’s essay here.

Chronicling Uptown’s History

If you have any stories, images, or photos of Uptown’s past that you’d like to share, please drop us a line. We’d love your help recording our neighborhood’s roots. We’re interested in the history of Uptown’s people just as much as its historic architecture and entertainment history. Our e-mail address is editor@compassrose.org.


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