AMC Oakbrook Center 4

300 Oakbrook Center,
Oak Brook, IL 60523

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 21, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Balaban & Katz retained the services of the firm of Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett, the architects of the Oakbrook shopping center, to design the original Oakbrook Cinema, according to an item in Boxoffice Magazine, December 23, 1963. Plans called for 1200 seats in the single-screen theater.

The December 7, 1964, issue of Boxoffice announced that B&K would hold an open house for the new theater on December 19 and 20, with the formal opening slated for Christmas Day. The final paragraph of the article was interesting:

“First event on the Oakbrook opening program will be dedication of a 50-year time capsule, which will be embedded in the front sidewalk December 16 with appropriate press ceremonies. …the capsule, to be opened in 2014, will serve to dramatize the rapid developments which are expected to occur in Chicago’s western suburbs during the next half-century.”
I wonder if anybody connected with the shopping center will remember that the time capsule is there?

barry74 on August 15, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I worked as an usher at the Oakbrook Theatre in the mid-70’s when it was part of the ABC Great States theatre chain. Around 1974 the northern tier of the chain was purchased by Henry Plitt, an ABC employee. Plitt changed the company name to “Plitt Theaters.” I remember getting a new usher jacket when the change took place.

The building was a modern design but retained the classic elements of an old movie house. An outside box office was used to sell tickets, the screen was covered with a curtain and the lobby was large enough to hold hundreds of patrons. The candy counter was surrounded by a dark brick floor, an unusual architectural feature at that time. The brick floor was flanked by a large carpeted area with square padded benches along the perimeter. A modern architectural feature in the lobby was floor to ceiling windows, which went across the entire length of the lobby. During matinees we would close the lobby curtains to prevent light from entering the auditorium. There were no doors between the lobby and auditorium. Patrons entered through a tunnel-style ramp.

The auditorium had a raked main floor and large balcony that resembled a modern-day stadium style theater. A unique feature in the auditorium was rocking chair seats. The isles were wide and easy to navigate. One summer, my job was to replace most of the arm rests on the seats. It took most of the summer but was a nice way to earn extra money.

The projection system could handle 35mm and 70mm film. The screen had adjustable masking around it, which always created a clean border around the film image. There were three different masking settings that corresponded with the film formats that were shown (35mm, flat; 35mm, widescreen; 70 mm, taller and wider than 35mm widescreen). The 70mm films appeared to be a much higher resolution than 35mm (similar to modern day digital houses). The image was larger than widescreen films and the projection system provided an early version of surround sound, using film with a magnetic strip for discrete audio channels (rather than the mono optical tracks found on most 35mm films of the day).

When a film was over, patrons could exit the auditorium through art galleries, which bordered both sides of the lobby. Works of art, mostly modern paintings, were hung in the galleries. I never knew who provided the art work. Perhaps they came from local galleries.

Jim Currant was the manager when I was employed at the Oakbrook Theater. He did a good job of assembling a great team. Most of us loved movies. I remember seeing “The Godfather” about 35 times. To this day, I can still recite many of the lines from memory! Ushers were pretty good at memorizing lines, especially when a movie ran for more than 5 weeks.

If anyone has any pictures of the Plitt Oakbrook Theater, please post them. It would be great to see it again.

Bobjl on February 18, 2008 at 5:32 am

Hello aek316,

Sorry it’s been so long since my reply. It’s so nice to have someone agree with someone when it comes to the old movie houses. I really miss my position with Cineplex Odeon. It was such a joy to go to work everyday at Oak Brook 1-4. Had no idea about Norridge. Just what we need, another big box retail outlet. I hardly ever go out to the movies anymore. I was just at AMC Woodridge to see Sweeney Todd. That theater is a nightmare! Oak Brook would have been a great theater for that movie.

aek316 on July 25, 2007 at 8:34 pm


Was in the area today and you are right. If you didn’t know any better, you’d never know there was a theater there once. The front doors are blocked off and the marquee is down from the front of the building. I went up the stairs around to the other side of the building and there are in fact retail stores there. Not sure if it was always that way, but from the looks of the front they are probably gutting it or just leaving the front of the building alone unoccupied or for storage since the property has been closed for so long. As you said, what a waste. I saw a lot of movies here in college (you just may have sold me a ticket there and at North Riverside and to my parents at Mercury and Forest Park too) and it was a nice place. All these new multiplexes lack character (not to mention adequete space) and moviegoing is no longer an experience anymore as evidenced by all the old theaters closing. I fear the Norridge is the next one to go as I heard rumors Cost Co wants to move in there. They recently tweaked the marquee and things looked a little run down in there when I was in there this week. That and the Lake are the last 2 places left that I saw movies at when I was growing up. Really too bad, thanks for the update though. Glad to see someone feels the way I do about some of thes old places-

Bobjl on May 18, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Sorry to say it is true aek316. I hoped and prayed for a long time that someone would buy Oak Brook 1-4 and turn it into an art house or something along those lines. All the theaters you mentioned I went to as well. If you visted Oakbrook 1-4 between 1993 and 1997, I probably sold you a ticket. My first job was at the Mercury in Elmwood Park, and I also worked at Forest Park and North Riverside Mall before becoming the manager at Oak Brook. It was such a nice theater, as a manager I knew all my regular customers. Now a days with these ridiculous 20 and 30 screen houses, it is impossible. Such a waste.

aek316 on May 18, 2007 at 7:28 pm

If the last post is true, another theater I grew up going to bites the dust. I really hoped after years of inactivity, someone would buy it and revive it. Such a shame that another formerly great place to see movies is going to be gutted in favor of generic retail stores that will be gone in a few years anyways. Intersting how some of these places (Oak Brook 1-4, Bricktown Square, Hillside Square, Forest Park Mall) were only open for 10-20 years and closed as quickly as they came-

Bobjl on May 18, 2007 at 4:39 pm

I am proud to say that I managed the Oak Brook Mall Cinemas 1-4 from December 1993 to October 1997. I belive I was the 3rd manager. I was so sad when she was shut down. We had so many good times there. The theater was beautiful. Theater #1 was among the first to have DTS and SDDS sound systems. Unfortunately when Loews Cineplex was born, they lost interest in the beautiful gal and shut her down. I heard somewhere that the piece of artwork in the lobby entitled, “The Comfort of Food” sold for $175,000 at auction. I beleive the mall is in the process of converting the space into retail lots. A very sad end for a beautiful movie house.

theatrelifer on October 23, 2006 at 6:37 am

I was the opening manager of the Oakbrook Theatre at 300 Oakbook drive. This was a great theatre. I was there for about 4 years. Also worked many other Plitt Theatres/Cineplex Odeon Theatres. During the 20plus years.Such as River Oaks 1&4(9&10) Orland Park 1-4/5-8. Paramount, Medoview and Town cinema in Kankakee, The Mecury Theatre,The Diana in Homewood and many others.

barryr on September 13, 2006 at 6:51 pm

I remember that “Star Wars” played there for something like six months. My friend and I went one evening and sat through it twice. When it was a single screen, the Oakbrook was on the order of the McClurg Court—a huge screen with a great sound system, and very comfortable seats. Saw a variety of movies there over the years, before and after it was split up: “The Big Chill,” “European Vacation,” “Superman II,” “The Black Cauldron,”… Saw “The Karate Kid II” in the smaller auditorium that occupied the area near (behind?) the original screen. Kind of a strange experience to walk all the way back there and find another theater. This was obviously after it had been tripled (quadrupled? — I lost track after while).

jimpiscitelli on June 26, 2006 at 1:54 pm

I also forgot the Oakbrook 5-7 was equipped with 70mm projection.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on April 27, 2006 at 6:08 pm

To CHASMAN and RICK3904 you might want to look at my coments from today on the UA Cinema 150.

CinemarkFan on February 16, 2006 at 10:06 am

Tnanks, jimpiscitelli. I’ll look into it.

With any luck, Oakbrook 1-4 may become an art-house later this year or early next year.

jimpiscitelli on February 16, 2006 at 9:50 am

To CinemarkFan: You may want to contact Growth Properties Inc. which owns the Oakbrook Center. Their website:

CinemarkFan on February 16, 2006 at 7:10 am

I’m looking to start a theatre corp very very soon, and I’d like to know how much it would cost to buy the mall theatres? I would remodel and expand the 4 screener to 7-8 screens, and make it an art-house.

Rick3904 on October 18, 2005 at 6:37 pm

The other theater in Oakborrk on Cermak Rd. (22nd St.) was called the UA Cinema 150. It had a huge auditorium and long runs on a single movie. I recall “Gone With THe Wind” played there for something like 10 weeks. It later split into two theaters and was renamed UA Cinema I and II.

The original Oakbrook theater was my first job back in 1967. $1.00 per hour. I’m sad to know it os gone. I wonder what they did with the time capsule that was buried in the concrete in the front of the original theater?

jwarren on July 7, 2005 at 4:39 am

Oakbrook was the last Balaban & Katz built theatre opening in 1964 or ‘65.

reiermann on July 7, 2005 at 4:11 am

The OakBrook theater (the stand alone theater on the East Side) was a very special theater. To me, it was “the place” to see a movie before it was divided up. The auditorium was large. I remember the speakers and lights were “hidden” behind large circular decorative units. The walls were an accordian-type relief. The main floor was nicely raked and there was a walk up balcony similar to the “stadium seating” found in newer cinemas. The projection and sound here were first class. Saw many 70mm/stereo presentations here: Superman, Star is Born, Tommy, Hindenburg, Midway in Sensurround. My parents took me here to see movies on my birthday so it holds sentimental value. After it was divided, I saw Forest Gump here…I never went back because it was sad what they had done to the auditorium. I also attended a few movies in the adjacent theater they built later that actually connected to the mall. Nothing special. It was very similar to other Cineplex Odeon’s in the city.

rivest266 on March 18, 2005 at 3:48 am

B & K opened the Oakbrook theatre Dec 25, 1964 with “Send Me No Flowers”

the grand opening ad can be found in the Chicago Tribune on section 2 page 9

thebubwan on March 10, 2005 at 11:57 pm

Does anyone remember the name of the other in Oak Brook that was on Cermak Road? I believe it was a duplex

jimpiscitelli on June 21, 2004 at 6:41 pm

A Cheesecake Factory restaurant is being built on the Oakbrook 5-7 site. I think on the 1-4 site they should remodel and reopen it as a art-house theater.

xavrush on May 25, 2004 at 4:20 pm

I was REALLY disappointed when I found out this theater closed, MAD in fact! I had just moved to nearby Elmhurst during its final year and noticed it was one of the few theaters in the area (other than Glen Art in Glen Ellyn) to show indie and art-house films. I saw Whale Rider and Laurel Canyon there. They should have remodeled it at made themselves totally into an art-house theater, especially being near such an upscale area. RIP

JamesPiscitelli on November 12, 2003 at 3:15 pm

Just recently, the Oakbrook screens 5-7 has been demolished.

JohnSanchez on October 20, 2003 at 2:48 pm

Actually, the original Oakbrook theater (which is the same building that was doubled and then tripled) opened sometime in the early to mid 60’s. My first visit there was the only midwest showing of “Jaws” at a sneak preview in March of 1975. It was twinned in the early 80’s and tripled in the mid 80’s.