Rockne Theatre

5825 W. Division Street,
Chicago, IL 60651

Unfavorite 3 people favorited this theater

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Ascher Brothers Inc.

Architects: Harold E. Gallup

Firms: Gallup and Joy

Functions: Church

Styles: Neo-Classical

Previous Names: Ambassador Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Ambassador Theater

The Ambassador Theatre was built for the M & H Theaters Corporation in 1924 by architect Harold E. Gallup serving the far western Chicago neighborhood of Austin. It was opened on October 20, 1925. It was equipped with a Geneva 4 manual 14 ranks organ. By 1926 it had been taken over by the Ascher Brothers Inc. chain.

It could seat 2,500 in its auditorium and originally hosted stage shows in addition to motion pictures. It was built in the Neo-Classical style and featured a domed lobby which was topped by a cupola.

Its marquee was V-shaped, and had signage on both W. Division Street and N. Monitor Avenue. Over the marquee were four large arched windows. Terra-cotta decoration covered much of the façade, which was of pale colored brick.

After the death of Knute Rockne in a plane crash in 1931, the Ambassador Theatre was renamed the Rockne Theatre in his honor (similar to Chicago’s Will Rogers Theatre at W. Belmont Avenue and N. Central Avenue being named for the cowboy star after his own death in a plane crash).

The Rockne Theatre was showing adult films by the 1970’s. After its days as a movie house ended in the very early-1980’s, the Rockne Theatre began a new life as the New Inspirational Missionary Church, which it still serves as today.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 41 comments)

Cindycrawford on September 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

The candy store I spoke of was on Division near Waller road not Wheeler

warnergrand on January 24, 2013 at 11:47 am

Cindy – does this theatre have a balcony? How large is the lobby – how ornate is the auditorium?

Griffey30 on March 17, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Does anyone who worked there remember the manager? Think his name was Jim Masino

Remo on March 31, 2014 at 12:50 am

Remember the “Mudhole”? – I Certainly Do, Spent A Lots Of Time In That Water. It Was Actually A Cool Public Pool, Come To Think About It.… LOL

My Cousin And I Went To Byford Then St. Angela’s…!

Also A Little Ma & Pa Store On The Way To School Mary & Joe’s..!

Joe Fry’s “Standard Gas Station” Corner of Iowa & Agusta..!

Went To The Rockne On Saturdays Mostly..! (House On Haunted Hill)..!

  • Many Many Others..!

WOW What Memories, I Was A Fucking Kid..!

AndrewBarrett on June 21, 2014 at 12:05 am

What a cool-looking building, I’m glad it’s still standing and being used for something!

According to David Junchen’s “Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ”, pg. 144, the Ambassador (Rockne) Theatre in Chicago originally had a 4 manual, 14 rank Geneva theatre pipe organ installed in 1925. The serial # of the organ’s blower was 17083. According to the Geneva chapter of the aforementioned book, this was one of the firm’s “show” organs and had what may have been the only 4-manual console built by the firm.

According to pg. 142 of the same book, the four-manual console from this organ was in daily use at the Elm Skating Club “as of 1983”. It turns out that through a few unfortunate events, the rink closed in the late 1980s and was torn down shortly thereafter. I do hope the console (and/or the rest of the organ, or parts of it) still exist somewhere today.

Does anybody know any more about this organ? I’m researching it for the Geneva Organs history page on my upcoming website.


Nykaza on November 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm

The Connie Stevens performance was “Two on a Giuatine” probably spelled wrong, and I was there too, she sang a song that the Beach Boys taught her before the movie. Also saw Sonny & Cher, still remember her Bell Bottoms but can’t remember the movie that they were introducing, The Beatles were even there for a quick intro to Hard Days night (but the line was all around the corner/block) and I missed that one sadly. Eileen Nykaza – John Hay

DavidZornig on April 4, 2015 at 10:12 am

1941 photo added courtesy of Jack Spatafora.

DonMiller1 on March 16, 2021 at 7:05 pm

After Vaudeville fizzled out this was one of the several theaters my grandfather managed

pswiderski on January 13, 2023 at 3:05 pm

Andrew Barrett. The Elm Console and parts of the organ were in the Elm Skating Club. Some of the ranks from the Rockne were generally in the organ, namely the Cornopean, Viol D Orchestra, and orchestral Oboe. The 4 manual relay from the Rockne was paired with the 3 manual Gottfred Relay to accomodate the Elms much larger size. The 4th manual relay was needed to accomodate the 4 manual Elm/Rockne console in the rink. I still have the bench and a couple of souvenier stop tablets from that console.

Denverpalace on April 21, 2023 at 8:59 pm

FDYB 1926, covering 1925, lists the Ambassador Theatre under Ascher Brothers. In 1926 the Ambassador was hived off to the Ambassador Theaters Corp. As such, the Ambassador was no longer listed under Ascher in FDYB 1927, covering 1926. In January 1927 Film Daily noted that Ambassador Theaters Corp. had taken over the 20-year lease of the Drake, “one of the larger outlying theaters,” from Drake Amusement Company. By September 1928 Ambassador Theaters was in the hands of a receiver, joining three Chicago chains with a string of over 40 Chicago-area houses that ended up being operated under a receivership by the Chicago Title & Trust Company.

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