Central Park

Chicago, IL — Is it curtains for Central Park Theatre?

Central ParkIs it curtains for Central Park Theatre?
By John Owens, Chicago Tribune reporter | Published by the Chicago Tribune
May 8, 2013

In a sea of empty lots in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood sits a faded relic that is one of the most historically significant American movie theaters still standing.

When it opened in 1917, the red-brick, three-story Central Park Theatre was hailed as a revolutionary entertainment venue — the first of the large “movie palaces” built by Balaban & Katz, and quite possibly the first movie theater in the world to feature air conditioning.

The Central Park, created by Chicago theater entrepreneurs A.J. Balaban, Barney Balaban and Sam Katz and Chicago architects C.W. and George L. Rapp, became the template for hundreds of movie palaces, from the Chicago and Uptown in Chicago to the Paramount in New York City.

“Before the Central Park, movie theaters were all like nickelodeons, uncomfortable boxes with folding chairs,” said David Balaban, author of “The Chicago Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz” and grandson of one of the five Balaban brothers who ran the B&K theater empire for decades. “The Central Park was different — it had the feeling of a European opera house. There wasn’t an interest in how movie theaters looked until Balaban & Katz built the Central Park.”

Today, however, the theater in the 3500 block of West Roosevelt Road is facing an uncertain future.

(Click here for the entire article and to watch the video interview that features THS Board Member Dave Syfczak (and the Uptown Theatre)!)


  1. Robert Boin

    unfortunately you can’t read the article unless you subscribe to the tribune digital news option. Date: Wed, 8 May 2013 15:58:20 +0000 To: rgboin@msn.com

    • Sorry about that Robert! I haven’t subscribed and I am still able to access it. I don’t know why it’s coming up that way for you. My apologies!

  2. Too bad that you can’t view the article or video without subscribing to the Chicago Tribune.

    • Sorry about that Don! I haven’t subscribed and I am still able to access it. I don’t know why it’s coming up that way for you. My apologies!

  3. There is no information on how to best support the preservation of the building or to support Rev. Scott’s work. Where/how can we donate?

Leave a Comment

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


© Theatre Historical Society of America. York Theatre Building • 152 N. York Street, 2nd floor • Elmhurst, IL 60126-2806 • Ph. (630) 782-1800 • Fax (630) 782-1802 • info@historictheatres.org • Copyright © 2013 Theatre Historical Society of America. All rights reserved.