Uptown Theatre News

Portage Flyer for Uptown Movie.

Uptown: Portrait of a Palace premieres at the Portage Theatre at 4050 N. Milwaukee.

Uptown Theatre News — May 15, 2006

Watch the new documentary Uptown: Portrait of a Palace at the historic Portage Theatre in Chicago

Date: Thursday, June 8, 2006. Time: 8:00 pm

The public debut of the short documentary film Uptown: Portrait of a Palace will be hosted by Friends of the Uptown and the Portage Film Forum at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 8, 2006, at the Portage Theatre, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Two additional shorts and live theatre organ music complete the bill. The Portage Theatre has a full concession stand. Admission is $8 in advance; $10 at the door. Plenty of parking is available nearby at meters and a City lot. Proceeds will benefit the Portage Film Forum and Friends of the Uptown. Call (773) 205-7372 or view www.silentfilmchicago.com for more information.

Uptown: Portrait of a Palace was produced and directed by John Pappas and Michael Bisberg for Debra Tolchinsky’s Fall 2005 documentary film production course at Northwestern University. A devastating hard drive crash caused its delayed completion and release. However, the data was recovered with the help of grant assistance and a remarkable, first-of-its-kind (for the Uptown Theatre!) film has been released.

Progenitor of the largest U.S. movie palaces of the mid-to-late 1920s, the Uptown Theatre, Chicago, operated profitably and survived several shifts in entertainment and public taste before closing in 1981. Since then, the closed colossus has been one of the biggest mysteries of Chicago’s North Side. Though the Uptown is a popular favorite venue for generations of Chicagoans and a City landmark since 1991, it is increasingly threatened by its disuse and real-estate speculation.

More than 300 Uptown residents and fans of the theatre participated in a community portrait to celebrate the 80th anniversary of this historic movie palace. Image copyright © Friends of the Uptown Theatre. (Hover over an area and click to zoom in).
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The film explores the history of the Uptown Theatre and why the largest and one of the most elaborate theatres in the nation has been left vacant for 25 years. It uses interviews with eight sources close to the theatre and breathtaking footage from inside the rarely seen venue to invite the viewer to question what is really important in a society fueled by money and private interest.

Is the Uptown a crumbling remnant of the long-forgotten past? Or does the building possess the quality that Balaban & Katz (the theatre’s original owners and promoters) touted when they gave it as a gift to their loyal cinema patrons: A theatre built “Not for TODAY—but for ALL TIME.”

Overall, the film shows how the Uptown Theatre remains an active venue for the hopes of volunteers who support it, the factoids of historians who have tracked it, and the dreams of a city that promotes the concept of its renovation and reuse for entertainment in the near future.

We hope to see you there! For a sneak peek of what’s in store, download the trailer now!

Uptown Update! The documentary Uptown: Portrait of a Palace just won for Best Documentary at the 11th Annual Flicker Fest. It also won for Best Short Documentary at the Northwestern Student Film Festival, introduced by former ghostbuster Harold Ramis.

Balaban and Katz Magazine.

B & K produced a weekly magazine for distribution in their theatres.

Read 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 (originals or scans) please e-mail us at editor@compassrose.org.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel and Apartments.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel and Apartments. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

Memories of the Edgewater Beach Hotel

It was a Chicago landmark—a gorgeous beach resort on the lakefront at Sheridan and Foster. For fifty years it was the place to be seen. In its time, everyone stayed there and everyone danced on the glorious Beach Walk. They were all there, from Jeanette MacDonald to Gandhi to Marilyn Monroe to Cary Grant to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. All of the big bands played there. Paul Whiteman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Xavier Cugat. It was a magical place.

And in 1967 it was torn down.

“Memories of the Edgewater Beach Hotel” is a collection of interviews of those who lived and worked at this remarkable Uptown establishment. You may read the article here.

Books Set in Uptown Chicago

For the last 100 years or so, the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago has served as inspiration for a host of local writers. Featured here are tales of mystery, of suspense, of hope, and of life on the streets.

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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