Erlanger Theatre

127 N. Clark Street,
Chicago, IL 60602

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Orpheum Circuit

Previous Names: Palace Music Hall, City Hall Theatre

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Erlanger Theatre

Opened on April 1, 1912 as the Palace Music Hall and operated by the Orpheum Circuit. It was also known as the City Hall Theatre until 1915. Abraham Lincoln “Abe” Erlanger acquired the lease in January 1926 and remodeled the theatre.

It reopened as the Erlanger Theatre on October 10, 1926. It was primarily a legitimate theatre house, but it did screen 3 films in it’s 50 year history, per the book “Downtown Chicago‚Äôs Historic Movie Theatres” by Konrad Schiecke: “Wings” on October 30, 1927. The premiere of Noel Coward’s “Cavalcade” on February 8, 1933. “The Great Ziegfeld” on April 10, 1936. “King of Kings” & “The Life of Emile Zola” were also screened here.

It closed March 10, 1962 with a stage production of “Bye Bye Birdie” and was demolished not long after with the rest of the block to build the Chicago Civic Center, now Richard J. Daley Center.

The neighboring RKO Grand Theatre had already been torn down in April 1958. Additional history credit Brian Wolf, Ron Salters, Ray Martinez, Bryan Krefft and Bryan Patrick.

Contributed by David Zornig

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Broan on December 5, 2018 at 1:16 pm

The sign read Palace Theatre during construction, but was quickly changed to Palace Music Hall, probably to avoid confusion with other Palace Theatres. It was part of the Orpheum circuit, and on completion of the New (now Cadillac) Palace, passed to Erlanger. The Palace Music Hall showed several pictures during its early years, often during summer months when not showing vaudeville. In 1913 Edison Kinetophone “talking pictures” were shown here and at the Orpheum’s Majestic, though the synchronization was not very successful. In 1914, Lyman Howe’s Panama Canal pictures were shown. Other films were later shown intermittently as part of Erlanger’s early road show picture policy.

DavidZornig on December 5, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Thank you for the additional history. 1962 photo added along with two print ads from 1927 & 1936.

Broan on December 5, 2018 at 3:11 pm

On February 8, 1914 at the Palace, as part of his vaudeville act, Windsor McKay debuted “Gertie the Dinosaur”, one of the world’s first animated films and the first to be animated using keyframe and many other important animation techniques. The film has great importance in animation history.

Broan on December 9, 2018 at 11:57 am

Further research on films played at the Erlanger on a roadshow basis – presented in a theatrical manner, with reserved seats and scheduled showtimes, twice a day:

Oct 30-Dec 24 1927 – “Wings” – played 8 weeks (including special sound effects exclusive to only a few theaters) Feb 26-Mar 24 1928 – Cecil B. Demille’s “The King of Kings” – played 4 weeks Jan 15-Jan 28 1933 – Cecil B. Demille’s “Sign of the Cross” – played 2 weeks Feb 12-Mar 19 1933 – “Cavalcade” – played 5 weeks Apr 12-Jul 11, 1933 – “The Great Ziegfeld” – played 13 weeks, noted as the longest roadshow run in Chicago since “Birth of a Nation” Aug 30-Oct 3, 1936 – “Romeo & Juliet” – played 5 weeks Mar 18-April 1937 – Capra’s “Lost Horizon” – played 4 weeks May 9, 1937-? – “Captains Corageous” Aug 8-Aug 28, 1937 – The Firefly 2 weeks Aug 29-Sept 18? 1937 – “The Life of Emile Zola”

In 1939, management considered abandoning legitimate performances and turning the theater into a grindhouse, but ultimately decided not to.

JudithK on July 9, 2020 at 6:49 am

Before meeting my Dad my Mom saw a production – probably the First National Tour – of the play “Mister Roberts” which as it turns out played at the Erlanger Theatre in downtown Chicago. The location of the theatre required some internet searching. That production starred John Forsythe and Jackie Cooper and it was probably seen around 1949. I do not remember much mention of the Erlanger Theatre in the media over the years so thanks for the post.

DavidZornig on September 9, 2020 at 9:51 am

Buster Keaton live on stage 1960, print ad added courtesy Tim O'Neill.

DavidZornig on June 4, 2021 at 9:14 pm

This link says it was also the City Hall Square Theater 1911-1915, with an address of 139 N. Clark.

DavidZornig on January 22, 2023 at 6:09 pm

July 29-August 24, 1946 photo added credit Explore Chicago Collection, from now dead link.

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