Uptown Theatre

4816 N. Broadway,
Chicago, IL 60640

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Friends of the Uptown Theatre (Official)

Additional Info

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

Architects: Cornelius Ward Rapp, George W. Leslie Rapp

Firms: Rapp & Rapp

Styles: Spanish Baroque

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News About This Theater

Uptown Theatre

One of the last great movie palaces in Chicago, this fabulous theatre was built by Balaban & Katz Corp. in the Uptown neighborhood, north of downtown Chicago in 1925. The Uptown Theatre was the largest movie palace in Chicago, larger than any in the entertainment hub within the Chicago downtown known as ‘The Loop’, and according to the Theatre Historical Society of America list, was the 12th largest movie palaces ever built in the U.S.A. It was opened August 18, 1925 with the world premiere of First National Pictures “The Lady Who Lied” with Lewis Stone and Virginia Valli plus a Balaban & Katz stage presentation “Under Spanish Skies”. At opening the orchestra pit housed a 60-person orchestra and the theatre was equipped with a Wurlitzer Grande 4 manual 28 rank theatre organ which was opened by noted organist Jesse Crawford.

Changing times and the shift in population have not helped the Uptown Theatre and although it was a destination for moviegoers for several decades, it was closed December 19, 1981 with a concert by the J. Geils Band. In 1991 it was designated a Chicago Landmark. Unfortunately, the Uptown Theatre has succumbed to water damage, vandalism and the wear and tear of time. Every year its exterior stands stoically facing the cold winter while its interior slowly erodes.

The Uptown Theatre had become one of the last truly great movie palaces without a certain future. Preservationists and movie theatre enthusiasts enthused that the Uptown Theatre “must be saved before it is too late”. In 2014 the building was purchased by JAM Productions for $3.2 million. On June 29, 2018 it was announced that $75 million had been granted to restore the theatre, and it was approved by the Chicago Community Development Commission on November 13, 2018. Restoration work was planned to begin in August 2019 with a completion planned for early-2021. Unfortunately, this timeline passed and then the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. In March 2021 one of the backers for the restoration pulled out. Owners of the building JAM Productions have stated that restoration plans will go ahead when further funds become available.

Recent comments (view all 518 comments)

DavidZornig on January 4, 2021 at 11:05 pm

Uptown Theatre Foundation Inc. is the Uptown Theatre’s owners JAM Productions. That is their address on Goethe.

DavidZornig on August 31, 2021 at 4:46 pm

Filming currently taking place at the Uptown.


DavidZornig on November 15, 2021 at 10:24 pm

A 2011 link with August 27, 1976 Bay City Rollers photos. I scrolled back and did not see it as being posted before.


DavidZornig on June 1, 2022 at 1:14 pm

This documentary confirms the vertical UPTOWN letters were still in place in `81. 0:22 in the video.


Ssc48 on July 9, 2022 at 12:06 pm

So what’s going on with this theatre will it ever be restored?

DavidZornig on November 14, 2022 at 6:15 pm

Chicgao Block Club piece on the passing of Uptown Theatre advocate Bob Boin.


Jeff M.
Jeff M. on March 19, 2023 at 10:12 am

Although it has probably already been brought to everyone’s attention (I did not have the time to read thru 515 previous comments) the Wurlitzer theatre organ, Opus 1060, was 4 manuals and 28 ranks and not the 20 ranks listed in the opening description. The console for this organ was the first time Wurlitzer installed a 4 manual key desk in a 5 manual console shell. This would have preceded the 5 Fox Specials, the first of which, was installed in the NY Paramount Theatre.

DavidZornig on March 24, 2023 at 9:38 am

Blog with a newly found 1933 fire photo of Green Mill Gardens building next door.


DavidZornig on June 4, 2023 at 4:25 pm

Below photo is a repeat of one posted in 2021 with date and proper credit and should be removed.


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