Esquire Theatre

58 E. Oak Street,
Chicago, IL 60611

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Showing 126 - 150 of 188 comments

CinemarkFan on September 15, 2006 at 8:04 pm

Thanks Brian. Say, what was the color of the curtain stuff around the screen? I seem to remember it being light blue with gray. Am I right about that?

Broan on September 15, 2006 at 7:06 pm

There are a couple shots of the shoeboxes. They didn’t come out too clearly though- my camera unfortunately does poorly in low-light and so many of the photos are not in sharp focus. But you get a good sense of the space nonetheless. There were 27 patrons in the final showing of Woody Allen’s “Scoop”.

Here is my set.

CinemarkFan on September 15, 2006 at 4:35 pm

Thank you Brian. I’m glad you did that. Let me know when I can see those photos. Does any of them include the auditorium?

mikemorano on September 15, 2006 at 4:29 pm

Thanx. I like to see those photos myself.

Broan on September 15, 2006 at 4:06 pm

I was at the last show and took a few dozen shots. I think I was actually the last patron to leave. I’ll post them soonish.

CinemarkFan on September 15, 2006 at 9:44 am

I still pray that Landmark Theatres will intervene and turn this into an art-house like the Century Centre on Clark. This does not need to be torn down. I hope a lot of people protest this proposed development on the site and write to Landmark.

Well, if this does get torn down, I can always try and reopen McClurg Court as an art-house or build a new one.

mikemorano on September 15, 2006 at 9:12 am

Very cool. I had to click a few times but the link worked for me. Perhaps the photo will be valuable one day if it truly is the last day the theatre was open.

CinemarkFan on September 14, 2006 at 7:36 pm

Well, Esquire is gone for good now. I went here today to see “The Quiet”, but my Dad had the camera. Oh well, it’s a good thing I wrote down my description of this place. I’ll post it later.

1938-2006 R.I.P. You gave me good memories Esquire. Ranging from standing out in the frigid cold with my mother and siblings for “Heat” and seeing that famous shootout scene up close, watching the gore in “From Dusk Till Dawn”, meeting ABC-7’s Linda Yu in person while waiting to see “Rumble in the Bronx”, going out with two of my brothers on a rainy Saturday to see “Con Air” and many
more memories of Esquire. It’s a shame Landmark Theatres or Classic Cinemas couldn’t do anything. For now, the area has only two theatres and 30 screens, the River East and the 600 North Michigan.

Broan on September 14, 2006 at 8:16 am

Carson Pirie Scott’s parent company recently announced it will close the State Street Carson’s location following the holiday season due to rising maintenance costs and falling profits.

Mikeoaklandpark on September 14, 2006 at 8:04 am

What happened to Carsons? I know Macy took over firleds but I didn’t hear anything about Carsons. I know this isn’t a movie theater

Mikeoaklandpark on September 14, 2006 at 8:04 am

What happened to Carsons? I know Macy took over firleds but I didn’t hear anything about Carsons. I know this isn’t a movie theater

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on September 14, 2006 at 3:02 am


Don’t forget the Berghoff. No, not the “faux Berghoff” which now exists on Adams Street—the real one which served Wiener Schnitzel, German Pot Roast, etc.

afrotrek on September 13, 2006 at 1:28 pm

Aside from it’s sleek beauty, the Esquire was great for the blockbuster movie. I saw Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Star Trek Wrath of Kahn at the Esquire, before the chopped it. The fun part was the line that literally wrapped around Rush Street to the next street north and then back to Michigan Avenue. It was awesome. I think it could seat 3000 people, but I’m not sure. The screen was huge and (after the chandeliers were removed for being unsafe) there was a lone ligt bulb to light the auditorium between shows. Sad day. First Fields, then Carsons now the Esquire.

CinemarkFan on September 13, 2006 at 8:58 am

To Life’s too short:

I’ve been here before, it’s just that it’s been so long and I would love to see those auditorium shots again. The blue and the gray around the screens.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 13, 2006 at 8:00 am

It is not all that impressive Cinemark fan. The lobby, which I believe is a rough recreation of the original, is pretty cool. But the rest of the building looks like any other multiplex of the period.

Mikeoaklandpark on September 13, 2006 at 7:52 am

This just pisses me off. I knew once AMC took over Loews they would pull this crap. Another great theater is going to bite the dust. I would bet the Lowes 732nd St East in nYC will be next becuase it is a singler screen theater.

CinemarkFan on September 13, 2006 at 5:37 am

Somebody get down there and take interior shots for me. Please. I wasn’t able to get down here like I hoped.

paytonc on September 13, 2006 at 5:06 am

According to today’s Sun-Times, the Esquire’s last showings will be Thursday, 14 September 2006. It will be razed for a new retail complex.

Broan on August 2, 2006 at 11:56 am

Following is a history of how the Esquire went from a single-screen to what it is today, pieced together from the Tribune Archives. In March 1986, Plitt/Cineplex Odeon announced plans to carve the theater into 4 or 5 screens, one day after announcing plans to shutter the nearby Carnegie. Almost immediately, the city Landmark commission began the process of trying to landmark the exterior and lobby, while allowing the auditorium work to be carried out. It was stated that if the owners chose to oppose the commission, work would be delayed until review was finished, and if they went with it, they could do their work. In another week, Garth Drabinsky, head of Cineplex, called the earlier reports false and said he only intended to split the balcony and floor, exactly as was done at the McClurg. (In that article he also said he did not plan to buy Essaness, which he of course did within three weeks.) By mid-August, the property owners were pressuring Plitt/CO to go back to the 4-screen plan to increase rentable space on the first floor of the building, just as ultimately happened. The prospective tenant was Bennigan’s. In August, the Ruttenberg family, owners of the property announced plans to fight landmarking, saying the only economically feasible plan would be to create a four-story interior with 2 screens on the lower floor, 2 on the upper, and retail in between. The landmarks commission was especially opposed to putting storefront windows in at street level. They also insisted that the only people they would work with is Plitt, dure to their downtown dominance. An intriguing quote: “We’ve had a demolition clause in the Plitt lease available for a year, and could terminate the lease by demolishing the building,” David Ruttenberg added. “But if we signed a new lease with Plitt, we would protect the theater from demolition for 20 years or more.” -Bill Ruttenberg. We are now 20 years from that statement. There was also talk of possible city aquisition. In another week, the Ruttenbergs obtained demolition permits for the Esquire, as a ploy to prevent landmarking. If they were landmarked after the demolition permit was approved, they would be entitled to millions in damages. However the permit was quickly revoked, since it hadn’t been reviewed by Ald. Natarus, as was required by law. Oddly, Bertrand Goldberg, designer of Marina City and River City spoke out against landmarking, saying it was not worthy. Of course, many of Goldberg’s designs feature a very similar scallop design as the Esquire. On October 2, the Landmark Commission reccommended that the city council vote the exterior a landmark, leaving the interior open as a compromise. By July 1987, the plan was to have one retail tenant on the first floor, one on the second, and six theaters occupying the top two floors. In September, the Commission voted against the plan, attempting to avoid exterior changes, but allowing the matter to continue. In November, they struck a deal to keep the facade and lobby 90% intact, the way it is now. The theater shut down shortly thereafter and was gutted in January, 1988. In late february, after a change in the plan to include small second-floor exterior alterations was approved, it was announced that M&R would take over operations. The plan was not to run art films. Cineplex objected. The Ruttenbergs said they chose M&R because Cineplex was only willing to lease the theaters, where M&R would be willing to only manage. They also worked together on Webster Place. In March, Cineplex sued to block M&R, saying its lease gave it right of first refusal on any new lease. This is likely why M&R was only managing. Loews acquired M&R in September, 1988. Some of the lighting fixtures turned up at a restaurant at 217 W Huron. The theaters reopened February 1, 1990 with “Stella,” “My Left Foot,” “Mack the Knife” and “Stanley and Iris.” However, the fire marshal shut it down. BUT Aldermen Naturus and Burke stepped in and got it opened for the reception that was there- it was not allowed to open to the general public until the alarm system was certified. In June, 1991 Citibank signed a 15-year lease. In 1994 the City Council’s Committee on Historical Landmark Preservation ruled that the renovation had destroyed the theater’s value as a landmark. Aldermen also complained that more historic neighborhood theaters had been allowed to be destroyed. I think many on this site can recognize the major difference with the Esquire. Shortly thereafter, the 600 N Michigan theaters were announced, and there was consideration of vacating the theaters and adding more windows for more retail. In February, 1995 Sony (having taken over the M&R/Loews theaters) signed a 10-year lease. In 2000 the retail question popped again, with the Loews lease reportedly up in 2003 and the Citibank lease up in December, 2000. In July 2002 it was sold to the present owners, who at the time said “our plan is basically to keep it as is,” while others said he was weighing his options, such as a hotel/condo high-rise. Which brings us to today.

Other historical notes that haven’t been touched on: it was in 1966 when Walter Reade, the New York organization, acquired the Esquire from H&E Balaban/Paramount, and quickly installed the popcorn, cigarette, and ice cream machines whose abscence had distinguished the Esquire as a cut above the rest. They also did a “quick, extensive remodeling.” It was Reade’s first, and apparently only foray into the market. Plitt, incidentally the successor to Paramount’s midwest theater division, acquired it from Reade in 1975.

PAM407 on August 2, 2006 at 10:05 am

i’m doing a school project on the esquire. my instructor told the class to choose a business that we think isn’t being managed properly. my objective is to create a plan of action for effective business. but first i need all the information about the theatre. when it was built, by who, who owns it now. their profits, the renovation, the employess and their organizational culture, their ethics and mission statement, prices, hospitable environment etc etc. i just need like THE WHOLE STORY!!!!!!!! Can anyone help me?????????

CHICTH74 on July 25, 2006 at 8:40 pm

Does any one know of any other pictures of the Esqurie`s auditorium before thay tore out the seats in 1989.
Thank you for your time :)

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on July 20, 2006 at 3:09 am

In reading the posts on this theatre, and other places, you’ll discover that rumors had been circulating for a long time. These rumors had been going on since before AMC took over. Under Loew’s, it had been somewhat of an “art house” in recent years, showing such fare as MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS, GOOD NIGHT & GOOD LUCK, etc. AMC however, has begun a program called AMC SELECT, which shows films such as these in its regular theatres (not necessarily a bad idea). With the implementation of AMC SELECT, though, the Esquire has lost whatever edge it did have.

It would be nice if the landmark marquee and facade could be kept. I’m not holding my breath though! I’d better get up there, take a few photos, and see some films there. I still beleive that with some fixing up, the Esquire could remain viable.

abbyworld on July 18, 2006 at 3:16 pm

Unfortunately, it looks like the end may be near at last.

View link

HowardBHaas on July 17, 2006 at 8:52 am

Sometimes there’s an employee to ask, but chains are stupid, and there may not be someone to ask or they may not say yes. Bring in your camera in your pocket or bag. Snap a few photos without trying to attract attention. Eventually, an employee says “no photos” so you put away your camera. No real harm to anybody. (Don’t snap at the screen while a movie is ongoing, as they don’t want tapes of movies being made- that’s bad for all of us).

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on July 17, 2006 at 8:42 am

Howard B Haas,

I’m sure that one would need to get permission from AMC to photograph in the place. Does anybody know how “fan friendly” AMC is?