Pekin Theatre

2700 S. State Street,
Chicago, IL 60616

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Chicago’s Pekin Theatre was the first African-American owned musical and vaudeville stock theatre in the United States opening on June 18, 1905, Between 1905 and around 1912, it was exclusively a live house showcasing African-American talent. It was the brainchild of Robert T. Motts, a who converted his Pekin Saloon and Restaurant into the 400-seat Pekin Theatre. A fire forced Motts to renovate and he went big increasing the capacity to 1,200-seats. Motts died in 1911 and that’s where the theatre veered abruptly. However, its legacy was already in place with seven other Pekin Theatres and more than 50 African-American owned theatres in the United States by 1910.

The New Pekin Theatre under W.P. Shaver installed two motion picture projectors giving in to the profit that movies could provide at its relaunch on January 31, 1912. Films were programmed in when live plays weren’t on the card. That occurred through 1915. In 1917, the venue became a dance hall. After that failed, it was used for sporadic live events. Heart-breaking was the Pekin Theatre’s ending after being converted out of existence into the Pekin Inn Third District police station and jail. It was described at its end as a dingy, ramshackle rat-infested building not representing its historical importance. The theatre / station was razed in 1946 for a Southside housing project.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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