Senate Theatre

3128 W. Madison Street,
Chicago, IL 60612

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Balaban & Katz Corp., Lubliner & Trinz

Architects: Walter W. Ahlschlager

Styles: Italian Renaissance

Nearby Theaters

Senate Theater marque 1972

The 3,097-seat Senate Theatre was originally opened on February 12, 1921 with Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle in “Brewster’s Millions”. Located in the Garfield Park neighborhood, the Senate Theatre was located on W. Madison Street between N. Albany Avenue & N Kedzie Avenue, close to Garfield Park itself.

It was built for the Lubliner & Trinz circuit but its management was taken over five years later by Balaban & Katz.

In its first decade or so of operation, it featured both live stage shows and movies as well as a 3/17 Kimball organ. It was remodeled and reopened on December 30, 1937 and switched to movies only.

Larger and more luxurious theatres like the Paradise Theatre and Marbro Theatre nearby drew audiences away from the Senate Theatre, and by the 1950’s, it was already falling into decline.

During its last years, it screened Spanish-language films. It finally was closed in 1969, and was torn down eight years later.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

SBGreig on June 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm

You’re thinking of “Little Jack’s”. Zoom down the Street View until you see Edna’s on the left. That’s where it was. Somewhere in CTA’s photo archives is/was a picture of a westbound Madison streetcar with the restaurant (and the Senate) plainly visible.

Yes, they were legendary for their ricotta-and-raisins cheesecake (the recipe can be found on the ‘Net with some effort) and lasted until 1962, another casualty of the changing neighborhood.

This may bring back a few memories of Little Jack’s:

BobbyS on June 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Thanks SBGreig for the info. It is very nice to remember such wonderful memories where our family would visit together especially after a movie. I really did think the Marbro would outlive the Senate. I couldn’t believe when the Marbro was closed for good and the Senate was still operating!

rivest266 on June 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm

February 12th, 1921 grand opening ad with close-ups has been uploaded here.

BobbyS on June 27, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Thanks rivest266 for the photos plus all the rest you have presented. Enjoyed them all. I still say it was hard to understand the MARBRO closing and the demolition following and the Senate still showing pictures. Madison & Crawford area wasn’t that bad yet.

RickB on November 22, 2014 at 1:38 pm

From February 20, 1977, a brief article on the Senate’s demolition, treating it as an example of the many theaters torn down in the city’s neighborhoods. There’s a picture, but it’s from microfilm and so not very good. The movie listings on the page are better.

BobbyS on November 23, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Thanks for posting Rick. Great to read all the movie ads of the day.

DavidZornig on December 26, 2014 at 7:40 am

Just added a 1934 photo courtesy of Gregory Russell. Early marquee and blade sign.

Broan on October 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm

During planning and construction, the Senate was originally to be called the Panacea. Weird name!

rivest266 on August 14, 2020 at 10:14 am

Held an reopening on December 30th, 1937. Grand opening ad posted.

Dplomin on December 11, 2023 at 10:02 am

I found a cast iron letter: N from in front of the theater shortly before demolition. I can imagine all the movie titles it spelled over the theater’s life. Still have it!

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