The Uptown Theater is located in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago at 4817 North Broadway. It was built in 1925. The architects were Rapp and Rapp. The contractors were the Paschen Brothers. It was built for Balaban and Katz Company.
It is a large ornate building in the Spanish Revival Style. It had a six story grand lobby, a large seating area, a large stage and a very large balcony. On the outside, it had an elaborate terra cotta facade. It occupied 46,000 square feet. It had a capacity of 4381 seats. Like many theaters of this era, it had an elaborate Wurlitzer organ.
When the theater first opened, it employed a staff of 130 persons. This included a 34 person orchestra. In its early history, a live stage production accompanied the featured movie.
Over the years as a cost saving measure, live shows were discontinued. First run movies continued to be shown. Attendance declined in the 1960’s and the 1970’s. Beginning in the 1970’s, the theater was used as a concert venue. The J. Geils band was the last act to play at the Uptown.
In 1981, the theater was closed for regular events. The Plitt Theater Organization was the owner at the time. They made a decision to turn off the heat to the building as a cost savings measure. As a result, a water pipe burst causing extensive interior damage. There was a lack of regular maintenance and frequent acts of vandalism. There resulted extensive interior and exterior damage.
In 2006, the exterior was secured. There have been many proposals for uses of the theater building. Unfortunately, the current owners Jam Productions have been unable to raise the millions of dollars needed for renovation.
The Uptown Theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
As reported in the Chicago Tribune (6/29/2018), 75 million dollars has been raised from various sources for the restoration of the deteriorating Uptown Theater. The plan is in the proposal stages and will need regulatory and Chicago City Council approval. Tentatively, project will commence in fall of this year and will last for two years.
The project will be a joint one with Jam Productions (current owner) and Farpoint Development.
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