Copernicus Center

5216 W. Lawrence Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60630

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Copernicus Center (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Balaban & Katz Corp., Plitt Theatres, Publix Theaters Corporation

Architects: Mason Gerardi Rapp

Firms: Rapp & Rapp

Functions: Concerts, Cultural Center, Special Events

Styles: Art Deco, Atmospheric, Neo-Classical

Previous Names: Gateway Theatre

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 773.777.8898

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News About This Theater

Copernicus Center

The Gateway Theatre was one of the larger neighborhood theatres built for the Balaban & Katz chain in Chicago, located in the Jefferson Park neighborhood on Lawrence Avenue at Laramie Avenue. The theatre was opened on June 27, 1930, designed in Atmospheric style with classical Roman-inspired flourishes; complete with a dark blue, starlit sky in the 2,092-seat auditorium, and classical statuary and vines on the side walls. It was one of only a very few Atmospheric style theaters by the firm of Rapp & Rapp, and one of the later of their numerous theatres for Balaban & Katz.

The Gateway Theatre was built for movies, though it did have a small stage. It remained a very popular theatre for decades, managing to have packed houses through the 1970’s.

In 1985, the Copernicus Foundation, a Polish-American society serving Chicago’s huge Polish community, acquired the Gateway Theatre from Plitt Theatres, and the interior was restored to its original splendor. As part of the restoration, the foundation added the now-distinctive Solidarity Tower, a smaller reconstruction of a now-demolished clock tower once a feature of Warsaw’s Royal Castle, visible from the nearby Kennedy Expressway.

Today, the Copernicus Center is host to community gatherings and concerts, most notably, the popular Taste of Polonia Fair. It is also used for a while for special film screenings, but these have now ended. The main auditorium is named the Mitchell P. Kobilenski Theater.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 78 comments)

jwarren on August 24, 2010 at 1:17 pm

That’s because they can’t make any money off of it – so out it goes!

Twilly on August 24, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Pay toilets are next!

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on August 25, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Jay Warren for Mayor, 2011

mp775 on October 12, 2010 at 5:47 am

If the Copernicus Foundation is planning a NEW theater for the site next to the Gateway, that means the land underneath the Gateway could become “ample free parking” for the new theater…

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on October 17, 2010 at 6:43 pm

They put a new screen up. Finally!!!!

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on November 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on July 20, 2016 at 6:54 am

This place still does concert. Earlier this year I say Tributosauras Plays Queen and it was a good show. The theater appeared to be in great shape.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on January 10, 2017 at 7:45 am

I ended my 2016 concert year exactly the way I began it—with a Tributosauras concert.

bdzmusicprod on June 21, 2018 at 5:59 pm

This was the second of two atmospheric theaters by Rapp and Rapp. The other was the Paramount in Toledo, Ohio now demolished

MSC77 on December 26, 2023 at 8:19 am

Fifty years ago today THE EXORCIST opened here. Gateway was among only two dozen cinemas in twenty-one North American markets to play the film at release launch.

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