Uptown Theatre circa opening day / Photo from THS's Chicago Architectural Photographing Co. Collection (#K 9037)

Inside the Uptown Theatre [Chicago, IL]

The A.V. Club goes deep into the venue’s history as Jam Productions looks toward restoration

by Ilana Emer and Anna Gross October 26, 2011
The A.V. Club

Uptown Theatre circa opening day / Photo from Chicago Architectural Photographing Co. Collection (#K 9037), THS Archives


Between 1918 and 1921, the synthesis of entertainment team Balaban and Katz with architectural duo Rapp and Rapp helped popularize the concept of the movie palace. The palaces were entertainment hubs that, unlike vaudeville and burlesque theaters, offered entertainment suitable for the whole family. Although Balaban and Katz built several movie palaces in Chicago, the Uptown Theatre was their crowning achievement.

Its decorative splendor included gilded corridors and ceilings, oriental rugs, elaborate murals, heavy drapery, massive chandeliers, and gargoyles. Even still, the Uptown Theatre stands at 4816 N. Broadway Avenue with its 104-foot deteriorating terra-cotta, Spanish-gothic façade.

For the past 30 years, the Uptown Theatre has been closed to the public. And thanks to former Mayor Daley’s effort to stabilize a theater district in the loop, the Uptown district was hit with a tax increase in the early ’90s, leaving the theater in a state of total neglect. 

But the now-dubbed “Uptown Square Historic District” has development plans for retail, dining, and entertainment—including talk of a $70 million restoration plan for the Uptown Theatre. After continued efforts from advocacy groups to make sure the Uptown is conserved under the city and state governments—and a piqued interest from the Wilco-loving, ballet-dancing Mayor Rahm Emanuel—plans to reform the Uptown neighborhood into the “Uptown Music District” seem to be becoming increasingly plausible.

Now the Uptown Theatre is under the ownership of Jam Productions, which purchased the building for $3.2 million in July 2008 with the intent to turn it into a premier music venue. To help bring this vision to fruition, Jam CEO Jerry Mickelson has recently brought on Phil Tagami, the man responsible for the restoration of Oakland California’s similarly ornate Fox Theater and, according to the Chicago Tribune, the two have been in meetings all week with city officials to discuss their options. …

For the complete story, see http://www.avclub.com/chicago/articles/inside-the-uptown-theatre,63857/


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