Alameda Theatre

2046 W. Division Street,
Chicago, IL 60622

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Balaban & Katz Corp.

Architects: Alexander L. Levy

Styles: Spanish Baroque

Previous Names: Biltmore Theatre, San Juan Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Biltmore Theatre Chicago

The Biltmore Theatre was designed in 1920 by architect Alexander L. Levy, who also was the architect of such Chicago theatres as the original Regal Theatre, the Brighton Park Theatre and the Marshall Square Theatre (now the Apollo’s 2000). The Biltmore Theatre was opened on January 15, 1921.

The 1,800-seat Biltmore Theatre was designed in Spanish Baroque style, and its facade was covered in ornate terra-cotta. It also housed a Smith 3 manual theatre organ.

The Biltmore Theatre was part of the Balaban & Katz circuit for much of its time in operation, from the 1930’s into the 1960’s.

Later renamed the San Juan Theatre, as its name might suggest, it featured Spanish-language films.

In its last years, the theatre had one final name change, as the Alameda Theatre, and presented both Spanish-language films, as well as live stage entertainment.

Unfortunately, in 1991, one of the West Town neighborhood’s most beloved old and longest-surviving movie houses was closed and torn down.

Contributed by Ray Martinez, Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 26 comments)

kencmcintyre on April 11, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Here is a 1982 photo when the theater was showing Spanish language films:

DavidZornig on April 14, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Thanks Ken Mc, that’s how I remember it. But much worse for wear by 1991.
That marquee was by then supported by multiple 2x4’s. They were bowing under the weight. And surprisingly no fence up.

roadside57 on June 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Division Street was an exciting place to be in the 1950’s when I was a kid growing up nearby and, for a nine-year-old, there was no more exciting spot on Division than the Biltmore. This was especially true during the brutally-hot summer of 1955, in the aftermath of the Richard Carpenter-Patrolman Clarence Kerr shootout in the theater.

I can remember my mother coming home late one night from Wednesday evening church services in the Loop, explaining that the Division-Van Buren bus she was on had been re-routed at Damen, and that an enormous crowd and many police cars had blocked Division Street between Damen and Hoyne in front of the Biltmore.

As we sat on our front porch a block away from the theater, we could hear the crowd noise and occasional sirens, until two cops in a patrol car stopped in front and asked my parents if they had seen anyone running through the neighborhood, before suggesting that we go back inside for our own safety.

The next day seemed quiet except for the sound of a police helicopter overhead. That evening, as I watched CBS news on Channel 2 with my mother, I felt proud to see Douglas Edwards lead off with a story on the shootout and manhunt.

At some point in his report, Edwards intoned the words “…in a run-down movie theater, in the slums just west of Chicago’s Loop.” Although I knew this wasn’t exactly a compliment, I was too young to take offense to the casual insult. Instead, it was a thrill for me to see the Biltmore on national TV.

That night, Carpenter was found hiding-out with hostages in a flat on Crystal Street, and I can remember the sound of tear gas rounds being fired to force him out, along with the noise of a crowd ready to tear the cop-killer apart as he was hustled to a waiting police van.

A couple of weeks later, Jack Webb in “Pete Kelly’s Blues” was the appropriate first-run feature at the Biltmore. As we entered the lobby, I was looking for stray bullet holes until I glanced down at the carpet just outside the show, and saw what appeared to be bloodstains.

Fortunately, Patrolman Kerr recovered from his wounds. Carpenter, of course, paid with his life several years laterr executed for the murder of a Chicago detective that took place earlier in that unforgettable summer of 1955.

earlier in that unforgettable summer of ‘55.

lincman on December 21, 2011 at 3:21 am

i was the headusher partime after HS…GOING TO AUSTIN..xhanged that marquee many time…when b & k ran the biltmore….this was 1954 just after cineMascope became part of movies…we were 3rd run house after big movies played downtown and then 1 week in our theatre…i had to make lobby boards…and 1 aheets for displays..james salice was our manager. Niles and ivar and me were the typical uniformed ushers in those days…it was easy and pleasant work…i remember the other shops in retail part of bldg….doctor…jewelry store are remember and little dorothy in box office who knew everyone who passed…this was 1954 after all….

Cinemaven on April 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Another theatre that should have been saved, Instead of demolished for “progress”.

DavidZornig on March 8, 2015 at 8:19 pm

1955 Sun-Times auditorium photo added courtesy of Gregory Russell.

DavidZornig on July 26, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Two 1970’s photo as the San Juan added, courtesy of Jose Luis Colon.

rivest266 on November 12, 2016 at 7:24 am

August 1st, 1930 reopening ad in the photo section.

DavidZornig on August 21, 2018 at 6:25 am

There is one interior stairwell photo at the top of this link. 1955 when Detective Kerr was shot.

DavidZornig on January 10, 2022 at 9:07 am

Here is the chronology that led to the Officer Kerr/Richard Carpenter shooting.

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