United Artists Theatre

45 W. Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Showing 126 - 144 of 144 comments

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on July 20, 2006 at 5:50 pm

That United Artists vertical sign is crazy. I wonder how much it cost to run it for a night? It is certainly a testament to how profitable these places were in their prime.

BrooklynJim on July 20, 2006 at 4:57 pm

Here’s a URL for a 1932 shot of both the United Artists and Oriental Theaters by Bill Volkmer:


[Correction to my earlier post: MAHP is an acronym for Mid-America Heritage Preservation Foundation.]

BrooklynJim on June 18, 2006 at 7:22 pm

Movie buffs and railfans oftn have a lot in common. Earlier this month, I purchased a 28-minute video on eBay about Chicago Trolleys that had aired on WTV back in 2002. Timeframe stretched from the ‘30s to the '50s, and most of the footage was in color. One shot of the very late '40s/very early '50s United Artists Theater was stunning, with brilliant chase lights doing their job late in the day! This is a tape to get if you wish to see some of the theater’s earlier grandeur.

The folks who market this tape (still not available on DVD, however) are MAHP: Mid-America Historical Preservation and can be contacted at P.O. Box 464, Whiting IN 46394. Cost is low (I won my copy with a single $8.99 bid), and all proceeds fund their other preservation projects. Worthwhile and recommended!

kencmcintyre on June 1, 2006 at 11:09 pm

Here is an interesting article about the United Artists Theater:

johnlauter on April 9, 2006 at 2:24 am

I believe this to be a picture of the Wurlitzer style “H” organ in the United Artists Theatre.

I was in the theatre in 1979, it really had the appearance of a reto-fit. It was a grind house at the time, the manager humored us and let us see the auditorium.

sdoerr on March 27, 2006 at 1:43 am

Here’s what is set to take place now at Block 37:

It appears to have stalled though as there has been no news since 2005 and the only change noted at the site is the movement of earth.

barryr on February 8, 2006 at 5:06 am

In the 70’s, I remember seeing a couple of Sensurround films at the United Artists: “Earthquake” and, some years later, “Midway.” The sensation was rather like one of those vibrating beds gone out of control. In retrospect, it’s amazing that old structure didn’t collapse on us. 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.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 31, 2005 at 1:26 pm

Turner Classic Movies just held a week long retrospective of the films of Alfred Hitchcock that included a documentary on the making of “North By Northwest.” There is some brief footage of the film’s World Premier at the United Artists Theater in Chicago, a week or two before the film opened in New York at Radio City Music Hall. The marquee depicted at the top of the page dates from 1958 with a Cinemascope presentation… However, “North by Northwest” was filmed in VistaVision and released the following year. Did they install a VV screen somewhere in between or was the screen already there for some time and used for Cinemascope presentations with some sort of masking?

Broan on June 28, 2005 at 3:57 pm

The correct link for my above comment is here

Broan on June 28, 2005 at 3:52 pm

Some 1953 views of the United Artists and several other loop theatres are available at Real Chicago: Chicago in the Fifties. Interesting to see the old marquee, before the more familiar huge wraparound. It must have been a real challenge to make a marquee work around a curved corner entrance.

UAGirl on January 18, 2005 at 6:28 pm


You nailed it on the head! Here’s your star for the day. * :)

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on January 17, 2005 at 9:06 pm

Ron, while others can explain this in much better detail, in a nutshell, many of the Hollywood studios owned, operated or otherwise were involved with theatres. You make more money if you show the picture you made in your own theatre. So Paramount Pictures owned Paramount Theatres, RKO owned Keiths and Orpheums, Warner Brothers owned Warner theaters. If I remember the story right, Loew’s theatres operated the other way, the theatre chain created MGM studios to provide material for their screens: a subtle twist on who owns what. United Artists studios got the Apollo Theatre in Chicago and made it into one of their prime exhibition halls. When the theatre changed hands years later, the name stayed the same.

Again, trying to keep this long, complex story brief, the Consent Decree of 1947(?) separated most of the studios from their theatres. Paramount, MGM, Warner and RKO were the main studios effected. (I think) Smaller studios like Columbia, Universal and Disney owned few theatres and were not included in the Consent Decree, but neither did they have enough realestate for it to matter much.

That’s the gist of it anyway.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 15, 2005 at 10:45 pm

What relationship, if any, did this theatre have with the United Artists movie studio? Was it a preferred place for United Artists films to be shown?

Broan on August 24, 2004 at 3:28 am

This view would be roughly from the Woods theatre, wouldn’t it? The substation, I believe, is the building with the U-shaped facade in the photo. Incidentally, this substation is, as I undersand it, a significant factor to why Block 37 has not been developed; the power to much of the loop is controlled from this building and consequently the block is snaked with power lines, the relocation of which would inevitably cause all sorts of havoc to the loop. This is a textbook example of why buildings should not be torn down until plans are absolutely finalized. Also, the text on that lobby photo page isn’t really correct in saying it was built inside an existing structure, rather it was a remodeling of a live theatre venue, correct?

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 29, 2004 at 1:45 pm

Oops, sorry about the extraneous word “both” in the above. Only the one UA Theater intended. Proofing one’s own writing is difficult you know.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 29, 2004 at 1:41 pm

This is forwarded from SDH, formerly Plitt Theaters' managing director of the loop operations in the late 1970’s.

On the subject of popcorn and concessions deliveries, at both the United Artists, the organ lift was still in place and was used to take cups, popcorn seed, candy, and drink syrup to the basement.

‘Twas easier than the stairs, but the UA kept Loop hours (open at 8:00 AM) and the deliveries were made whilst the theatre was open: The teamsters would bring four-wheelers down Aisle Four, load the organ lift up with whatever, and the goods would sink into what had been the orchestra pit, in full view of the astonished first-show patrons. I never argued with it. They had been doing this for decades.

PhilH on June 13, 2004 at 4:02 am

I remember seeing Jaws here and found myself looking around at the theatre and not the film. I miss the great theatres in the loop.

JohnSanchez on February 12, 2004 at 10:22 pm

The United Artists was another grand palace in the Loop. It was right across from the Oriental and Woods and a block west of the Chicago, State Lake, Loop, and Roosevelt theaters. Like the others it was the home to exclusive first run premieres. It’s greatest success going into the mid 70’s was “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. In the early 70’s the UA was host to the premieres of such classics as “Mash”, “Cabaret” and “Deliverance” (the owners had canoes hanging from the marquee during that run). In 1975 the UA had its biggest success ever as one of 5 theaters to open “Jaws” in first run. Even though it wasn’t playing exclusively, “Jaws” broke UA’s house records for months. In the late 70’s the UA got a bad reputation for having video games in the lobby that were loud enough to be heard in the theater and for mice. By the time I made my only visit there in 1985 the theater was pretty worn down. I was there to see a Bill Murray film festival (“Caddyshack”, “Meatballs”, and “Stripes”). The main auditorium was closed to the public. What few people there sat in the balcony. Unfortunately some of those few happened to be either homeless or winos who disrupted the movies. Complaints to the staff fell on deaf ears. It was a sad way to see a grand palace being run. When it was demolished in 1987 there were reports in the papers that the construction crews had never seen so many mice and rats in a building. Once demolished the outdoor ice rink called Skate on State took up residence but now that is closed and the lot is vancant.