United Artists Theatre

45 W. Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Showing 76 - 100 of 144 comments

Meredith Rhule
Meredith Rhule on December 19, 2008 at 2:33 am

Unbelieveable. Gee, what is next? Oh, time to set the Chicago theater on fire? Maybe use it as target practice for some new bombs from outer-space? How could they mess with UA?

DavidZornig on December 6, 2008 at 11:22 am

You are a God BWChicago. Flo’s it is, or was. Thanks! My barber concurs. Thanks for the tiemline.
Flo the owner was apparently a heavy set gal who dated the dance instructer named Tony Paris. Only in Chicago would we now learn this, eh?
My barbers club was called Club Malibu located at 3309 N. Clark. Not downtown as I had thought.

Broan on December 6, 2008 at 11:18 am

It was also Mambo City from 1954-1956. Quite a checkered history.

Broan on December 6, 2008 at 11:12 am

Flo’s was the Preview Lounge from 1947-1960. That space was called variously the Upstairs Room, Encore Room (a couple weeks 1953-1954), the Modern Jazz Room (1956), the Upper Limbo (half a week in 1957), the Modern Jazz Room (1957), Mambo City (1958-1960), Curtain Call Theater(1960-61), the Kit Kat Club (1961-62, had waitresses costumed as kittens)…

So you see why they might go as flashy as a swinging girl to get some attention, with a record like that.

Broan on December 6, 2008 at 10:38 am

It was Flo’s restaurant, a Gay ‘90s saloon themed restaurant with a cabaret style dance and performance space upstairs.

DavidZornig on December 6, 2008 at 10:24 am

Well, at first my barber thought the club was called the Preview. But he thought that was on another block.
He than came up with the Velvet Swing, which would make sense, but he wasn’t sure. He said I was going too far back. I’ll see him in a few weeks and re-quiz him. At least we’ll learn the name of his own club.

Rolando on December 3, 2008 at 3:20 pm

My sanity is saved! Thanks David for your post. Looking forward to what your barber can recall. Haven’t been home to Chicago since 1979; I believe it’s time for a visit.

DavidZornig on December 3, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Greetingsw Rolando. You were not dreaming that. I clearly remember the restaurant with the girl on the swing too. I posted about it ont the Oriental page I think. I mistakenly thought it was on that side of Randolph. But now as you say it, I’m pretty sure it was next to the United Artists.

I thought it was either a German or New Oleans themed place. She definately wore either Laderhosen or a short skirt/bloomers.
The facade of the restaurant building had a tall cut-away on the left side above the entrance. The swing was actually suspended inside of that. But when she swang out on it, she was over the sidewalk. The cut-away was deep enough to not have her hit the back when she swung back in.

I put a call into my barber who owned a nightclub downtown in the `60’s. I’ll post back with an answer when I get one.

Rolando on December 3, 2008 at 1:41 pm

I remember going to the United Artist to see “Cabaret” when it first came out. Not many people in the theater but my brother, sister and I had a great time. I seem to recall there was a restaurant next door to the U/A and there would be a girl on a swing over the door. Was I dreaming this?


DavidZornig on November 7, 2008 at 1:50 pm

I just noticed that the original marquee in the 1958 photo at this link’s top, had Balaban & Katz in the center. So ABC actually rebuilt the front of the marquee to add their logo.

DavidZornig on October 31, 2008 at 8:31 pm

The coolest thing about the United Artist’s signage was the timed illumination of the ABC portion.
It lit up sequentially just like the ABC & 7 on TV back in the day.
Like timed, scriptive writing in lights. The whole sign was stunning, but that part sticks out in my mind’s eye.

hanksykes on October 22, 2008 at 11:58 am

Owner of the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati,Ohio is from the same family which has published nationally, since before 1900, the sign industry bible entitled ,“Signs Of The Times”.A large marquee would pose a real space eater in an interior museum, of course it might find use as an exterior weather sheild. Maybe White Way knows where the marquee went.

Chicago229 on October 22, 2008 at 9:40 am

I just read an article from Chicago Magazine about White Way Sign Company. It said that while some of the Chicago marquees were lost, some made their way to a museum in Cincinatti called the American Sign Museum; the article did not say which ones are there. I went to the museum’s website and did not find any information on theatre marquees.

I did learn some interesting things about White Way Sign Company from the article, though. Did you know that at 9p.m. every Thursday, about 20 White Way trucks came to the Loop and changed the signboards, going on until as late at 2 and 3a.m.? I always just assumed that the staff of the individual theatres would change the signs, but I guess it does make sense, since it would probably need expert attention. White Way also provided maintenance to the signs, and in fact still overs this service.

Anyway, does anyone know about the American Sign Museum, and which signs it holds?

William on October 16, 2008 at 2:17 pm

You would as have to have a Very large basement too for that one.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on October 16, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Very much doubt it. They usually cut those things up and truck them away. I assume the scrap metal price on them is part of the demolition company’s profit.

Would be cool, however, if one of them did still exist.

Chicago229 on October 16, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Is it possible that the glorious marquee from the UA was salvaged? It would make an interesting artifact if Chicago’s theatre museum ever comes to fruition. And for that matter, how about the great marquees of the Woods, State-Lake, and others?

Perhaps in someone’s basment, these great works of art are collecting dust (?)

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 6, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Call the Theatre Historical Society. They can sell you UA lobby pictures, and it won’t cost much. Web site is:


Contact phone numbers and email addresses are listed there.

teddy666 on September 5, 2008 at 11:52 pm

This is one of the most tragic theater demolitions next to the Woods being demolished downtown. At least The Woods had the dignity of becoming The Goodman Theater (if that’s anything at all). The United Artist could have remained in that spot until at least 2005. Perhaps if it would’ve been spared, it would have made a lovely play theater. But then again, who really knows? I’d love to see more pictures of that theatre inside. Especially some color photos of the lobby before it closed.

KenC on August 18, 2008 at 6:24 pm

I agree with hank and David…the United Artists was in very good shape until at least the mid 80s. My last trip was in 1985 to see “RE-ANIMATOR” .It was part of a triple feature.To my eyes, everything looked pretty much the same as it did in the 60s and 70s. Perhaps a few worn seats, perhaps a little dusty here and there, but still a pleasant and comfortable experience. The one exception:rodents! Although I never saw any, there was a problem, according to reports. As John Sanchez noted in his post on 2-12-04, the main auditorium was closed; patrons had to sit in the balcony. In the early 80s this same thing happened to me, sitting in the balcony with about 40 other people, watching a triple horror show. Why the balcony on a weekday afternoon? My only conclusion:mouse traps with cheese scattered around the main floor .Nevertheless, I have very fond memories of the UA. Great movies, no problems.

DavidZornig on August 15, 2008 at 9:13 pm

I remember reading back when the United Artist’s ran the Sensurround film Earthquake, the old structure actually did suffer slightly. To protect the public, mesh netting was quickly hung at ceiling height to catch any pieces of plaster that may have continued to jar loose. Similar to what was done at Wrigley Field a few years back.
If anyone else remembers this quick fix, or can locate an original article about it, maybe they can cite where.

“Scarface” on Christmas Day 1982 or`83, was my last time at the United Artists.
I concur it was still in pretty good shape by then. “Say hello to my little friend”, was uttered only on screen, not at our feet.

hanksykes on January 20, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Someone asked way back in 2005 on this site if any of the United Artists interior remained,well I think that Peter Miller managed to roll up the interior murals from the house and place them in safe storage. Let me add my sad condolences for the demise of the United Artist Th. which was in spledid shape on my last viewing in 1986. R.I.P. United Artist, what a loss!

CHICTH74 on January 8, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Well that answers that question.:)!

Thank you for that answer.

It is just to bad that the UA was torn down i hope that the new theatre that is to be bult on BLK37 will pay respect in some way to the theatres that were on the spot before it .


R2D2 on January 8, 2008 at 11:25 pm
I also remember "Star Wars" being there for what seemed like forever the summer it came out, although I had seen it further north at the Esquire.

Forever in this case was 21 weeks. (In comparison, “Star Wars” played for 18 weeks at ESQUIRE. The ESQUIRE booking, by the way, began nine weeks sooner than the UNITED ARTISTS run.)

Broan on January 8, 2008 at 11:12 pm

As noted in the description, the UA was sold to Balaban and Katz two years after opening, in 1929.

CHICTH74 on January 8, 2008 at 11:04 pm

KenC: Thank you for clearing that up for me , now here is the next question…Why did it play at the Chicago , McClurg Court and the Portage but not the UA?

Was the UA still owned by United Artists?

If i am right United Artists did not realy think that it was that good of a movie in the first place (meaning that it was not going to make a lot of money) , is this right ?

Which brings us full circle to the 1st question…Why did it not play at the UA ?

If any one can help i thank you :)
And KenC THANK YOU it help answer that question.