Esquire Theatre

58 E. Oak Street,
Chicago, IL 60611

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Showing 51 - 75 of 188 comments

DavidZornig on November 10, 2009 at 11:56 pm

As truly great as that scenario would be, I think the Muvico folks would probably consider the Esquire space too restrictive for what they’d want out of a new venture.
In comparison to the space downtown that they passed on. Which is considered by the city the “theater district”.
The Muvico out in the suburbs looks like a palace. Even with multiple screens inside of even a reconfigured Esquire, it likely wouldn’t be enough space to satisfy them, and without parking.

I’d think size wise McClurg Court would be more doable if they were even to entertain the idea of renovating an existing space, versus building a new facility to their own specs.
The Esquire probably seems like an arthouse in size to them.

The demographic on paper for movie goers around Oak St. probably wouldn’t be enough for them even if it included everyone on CT. Because sadly there are no other theaters left in the Rush St. area with/from which to even properly gauge theater foot traffic.
Plus I think they’d probably require massive parking access wherever they choose to go.
If Muvico did magically want the space, I’d fear they rip it down and build their own structure anyway.

I’m for saving the Esquire structure & facade no matter what ends up going in there.

Mikeoaklandpark on November 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Since the Muvico project fell through, why don’t they just purchase this theatre and reopen it.

vicboda on October 2, 2009 at 3:09 pm

This was one of the most beautiful theaters I ever went to both inside and out. The art deco blue interior was such a pleasure.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 26, 2009 at 3:00 pm

No surprise on the foreclosure.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 26, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Pretty sure this has not been posted. No offense if it has:

View link

In either case it is a cool image.

DavidZornig on April 2, 2009 at 11:07 am

Test/Renew notification status.

CinemarkFan on March 9, 2009 at 11:21 pm

With the economy in the state it’s in right now, I wouldn’t expect to hear anything anytime soon.

In a perfect world, this or McClurg Court would reopen as indie houses. This could be restored to a triple or a quad, with a large movie place-esque screen. But those developers just love high-rises that the area has enough of.

DavidZornig on September 30, 2008 at 1:58 am

Correction. The City of Chicago owned/operated parking structure was at the S/E corner of Delaware & Rush. Not Chestnut & Rush. That of course is Quigley North.
I regret this error, and blame it on it being 12:55 am.

DavidZornig on September 30, 2008 at 1:49 am

I’d venture to say that Marilyn Miglin is likely the most powerful force on Oak St. Even more than Oak Bank.
The street is literally named after her in signage, at the intersection of Oak & Rush. (A Natarus Tradition)

I’m surprised she didn’t just purchase the Esquire herself long ago.
Or help broker whatever she wanted to be there in the first place. Her late husband was a giant in the Chicago real estate world.

But still you’d almost think she would have preferred the hotel concept. Wouldn’t that have just increased her own high end foot traffic? With rich, free spending out of towners mere steps from her door?

Of course the Drake & Soffitel are both within easy walking distance of her shop already. So I’m sure she already knows the percentage of travelers versus regular customers she gets.
With the new structures mirroring the height of everything else on the street, calculating future patronage per square footage may have already been factored in.
Given the current money/market crunch though, we’ll see how long it takes for anything to actually happen anyway.

I agree, parking had never been an issue at the Esquire. It was always considered a “neighborhood” theatre. Nor would parking have been an issue of a proposed hotel. Nobody drives to the Drake or Soffitel. They are dropped off there.
A hotel would have only increased the drop off traffic directly in front, not the parking. Unless their “new” loading zone stretched the entire span of the Esquire building. Not just the entrance.

Ironically Oak St. parking is more adversely affected by the very stores that paid the city for valet zones.
Meters were removed, in favor of the pay boxes that now encompass the entire street like downtown on Wabash.
What little you can’t squeeze out of the supposed pay box spaces, the valets have blocked up.

Rush Street actually used to consist of 2 way traffic from about Ontario to Cedar, with parking on both sides of Rush up until the very late `70’s.
The city then barred parking from Chestnut to Cedar along Rush, after it was converted to the current One Way traffic. Remember those short lived “No Cruising” signs the city strangely threw up?

Ironically the City of Chicago owned and operated a giant 5 story parking structure with automotive elevators, staff, etc. at the S/E corner of Chestnut & Rush for decades.
Then let it sit empty for another decade. As the old Rush Street slowly lost places with bands & other live “entertainment”, the need for such massive parking dwindled. Plus the city was slowly getting out of the parking biz. They once had lots all over the city.

It would have been neat if Miglin had taken over the Esquire herself. Kept the existing structure, facade & famous marquee. And completely rebuilt the interior as an exclusive mall of sorts. With herself/make-up line as the anchor tenant.

She’d have been a heroine for the architectual ages. Then naming the street after her would have had deeper meaning. Though with the Esquire gone, she probably is now the longest existing tenant on Oak St. Unless I guess Bravco is still there.

As an aside, the Gold Coast Art Fair for years from it’s inception to about `84 or so, was held on Rush St. From Pearson along Rush & Wabash to Cedar.
It was moved from Rush St. to Wells St. near Huron, Superior etc., presumably to appease new art galleries trying to make their area the so called “gallery district”.
The initial new breed of art fair organizers and some at the alderman’s office routinely disputed this characterization.
Saying instead that Rush & Oak St. businesses no longer wanted the art fair in front of their businesses. After all, who doesn’t want captive foot traffic of 500,000+ people for 3 days once a year. Oh, and the air & water show used to be the same weekend as the art fair back then.
So jack that number up as you see fit.

Like the Esquire, the original Gold Coast Art Fairs made the neighborhood a neighborhood. I sold corn on the cob as a kid during the art fairs, out of the old Pour House tavern on Bellevue St. from about 1968 to `74 or something. It then became Moby Nicks, then Kronies, and was recently torn down to build LuxBar. The bars “Irvings?” then Elliot’s Nest, also shared the building’s East half.

studiobrian on September 29, 2008 at 1:19 pm

The loss of the Esquire as well as many of the other businesses like Milanos, the Oak Tree, Acorn on Oak, even Burgerville has basically turned a once diversified street into a one dimensional strip mall (high end retail or not). No doubt people like Miglin will prosper as more of the same brings in more people for more of the same, but is that good for the neighborhood if one can even continue to call it a neighborhood. Sure if you want a coffee or lunch, just head around the corner at Rush. The intimacy is lost and in the end progress will march forward. Years from now people will lament, as they always do, “if only…”

Broan on September 29, 2008 at 11:35 am

A Tribune article today about passing the Plan Commission includes this quote:

For the most recent plan, “the developer worked closely with us every step of the way,” Marilyn Miglin, a member of the Oak Street Council, told commissioners. Miglin said the new use is more appropriate for the high-priced retail corridor than the theater or a previous M Development plan for a boutique hotel, both of which lacked adequate parking.

Anybody here think parking was really an issue at the Esquire?

DavidZornig on September 23, 2008 at 2:27 pm

P.S. This is in reference to the above `70’s photo posted by BWChicago. The parking lot pictured in the foreground is the former site of a huge Musket & Hendricksons Pharmacy, and now the site of One Mag Mile-retail and condos.

M & H was the anchor tenant on the ground floor of a massive building that burned down in a spectacular fire in 1969 or`70. There was also a furrier who shared the ground level. The fur clad mannequins stood eerily lifeless as the fire raged around them. Similiar to those in the original “Time Machine” film.

The 2nd floor had housed a campaign office for Hubert Humphrey. So it’s no surprise that the Democratic stronghold threw up a painted billboard on the newly exposed wall.
George Dunne’s longtime headquarters was down the street on State at Oak, next to Papa Milanos.

The building that replaced Papa Milanos, Mondellis & the Bang & Olufson store (Old Rush/Oak Market), is almost done.

The old Gino’s Pizza building at Rush & Walton that was being restored, apparently fell or was torn down instead 2 weeks ago.

DavidZornig on September 20, 2008 at 10:29 pm

Well, the end of the classic Esquire Theatre structure seems near.
Yesterday I received the regular 42nd Ward e-mail update called “Alderman Reilly Reports”.
In it among other 42nd Ward issues, was the “Esquire Theatre Update”. Basically it says that a redevelopment proposal for the Esquire Theatre that was before the Chicago Plan Commision, was passed on Sept. 18th.

The redevelopment plan consists of 3 new, 2-3 story buildings between 36 & 60 feet in height, with differentiated facades. It will provide 45,000 square feet of retail space. No dwellings. It also praises this plan as being consistent with the existing Oak Street content.

Since there is no further mention of the Esquire Theatre other than the address of 58-104 East Oak, we can assume there is sadly no plan to incorporate any of the existing building or facade into the new plan.

It goes on to laud the achievement of stopping a previous proposal of a 12 story, 158 foot hotel with 24,500 square feet of retail.

Strangely, a hotel development probably could have smartly utilized the vintage Esquire facade in some way. But all those who opposed it are correct about the oversaturation of the area. Congestion on Oak Street being pretty much the worst. I’ve personally witnessed that the valet parking for the oh so trendy stores, has now morphed into a constant, zig-zagging stream of double parked BMW’s & SUV’s. Awaiting their multi-shopping bagged, sun-glass wearing owners on their cells as they board.

So it sounds as if more buildings designed to cleverly emmulate old row houses, is what will stand where the once grand Esquire did for so many years.
No apparent attempt to preserve the facade or signage. Just another part of Chicago history that is carelessly wiped away.

DavidZornig on August 16, 2008 at 11:26 am

I agree with Bryan that it would be truly sad if some attempt to save the Esquire’s facade is not made. Any developer would be viewed as a hero, were they to incorporate the old, into whatever new plans.

The Esquire facade is the undisputed anchor of Oak Street. I grew up there.
The entire area is under going a development assault that seems unprecidented. Retail mania and soulless towers are replacing everything that made the Near North Side a neighborhood. Sadly I just moved a year ago from the area, after over 45 years.

Back to the Esquire though. Many memories I have back when it was a one screen house. Godspell, That’s Entertainment, Slueth, Man Who Fell To Earth, and of course Blazing Saddles. I went with a teacher who lived in my building. Our faces hurt from laughing.

As you can see from photos others have posted, the Esquires entire overhang was filled with lights. This guaranteed you that squinty feeling you wanted after a movie, no matter what time of day.

Next door to the West was a quaint little book store. The closest cloth awning in one of the `70’s pics posted.
It had a special section devoted just to film. That’s how retailers thought back then. They customized their inventory to neighboring customers.
There was also a place called Musicraft, that sold high end home audio equipment. Either in that Pickle Barrel location, or next to it.

The Esquire was really a well run, classy place as a one screen. It aged a bit when the traffic of six screens started to take it’s toll. It’s hard to clean up the aisles in between showings, when start times are scheduled only minutes apart to maximize patronage.
I remember seeing “The Perfect Day”, the Clint Eastwood/Kevin Costner effort set in the `60’s there. Maybe 1992 or so.

Oak Street had everything. Shops, Bars, a bike shop, hair dressers, art galleries, even a huge Jewel grocery store across from and East of the Esquire. A B&G diner type restaurant was on the corner of Rush & Oak where Barney’s of New York stands now. NY?
I remember showgirls with five o'clock shadow, eating breakfast at that B&G.

The Esquire’s endless neon seemed to illuminate the entire block. It really gave you the feel of big money believing in a small neighborhood. One block away on Bellevue was all brownstones, with bars & niteclubs trimming the Rush Street perimeter.

I was sad to see it close, and hope that any developer takes into consideration it’s visual history to what’s left of the neighborhood.
We need a hero.

br91975 on July 5, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Excellent idea, Tim; it might be worth pitching it to Mark Cuban, owner of Landmark Theatres: He responds to every e-mail he receives and will at least give you a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.

telliott on June 7, 2008 at 4:54 pm

The sad part is that as another plan bites the dust, the Esquire could have been still open and showing movies as one plan after another comes along. I still wish that Landmark or someone similar could come along and run the six screens, it just seems to fit in to the neighbourhood.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 7, 2008 at 4:20 pm

It’s not over yet Bryan. That statement is code for, “the project fell apart and we don’t know what the hell is going on.”

Of course no businessman is going to come right out and say that.

If someone felt like being an organizer, I bet an energetic preservation group could get the facade saved.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on May 2, 2008 at 8:51 am

Interesting tale of the Esquire’s last day: View link

GaryParks on April 16, 2008 at 1:30 pm

Being a 1930s theater, constructed well after it became clear that talkies were here to stay, the Esquire would not have had an organ. A few theaters were equipped with organs after the advent of talkies in the US, such as at Radio City Music Hall, the RKO Roxy (Center) in New York, the Paramount in Oakland, and the United Artists in Berkeley (the latter a move-over from an older theater), but these are exceptions. In Great Britain, organs continued to be put in theaters for a while longer, but clearly for the music being part of the show package, not as possible film accompanimant.

Rbeatty975 on April 10, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Did the Esquire ever have an organ?

Coate on April 1, 2008 at 12:57 am

Why should I tone down my rhetoric? I thought your comment regarding an unadvertised early-afternoon matinee warranted a knee-jerk reaction.

Why would I need to double-check my ad photocopy? I stated in my previous post that I had the ad in my possession while making the post, so it is not a matter of me misremembering. I think it is you who is simply misremembering, just as you misremembered the duration of the engagement.

I don’t think there’s anything unusual or abnormal about misremembering details of an event that happened more than 30 years ago. And I’m not holding anything against you; I just think you’re going about proving your case in an unconvincing manner.

I’m willing to continue debating the matter, though (because I’d like to know definitively myself), but I do think that if any discussion regarding the “Star Wars” run at the EDENS is to continue, it should probably take place on the EDENS page instead of creating any more unnecessary drifting off topic on this ESQUIRE page.