Monday, October 22, 2012

Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60601

Designed by architects Cornelius W. Rapp and George L. Rapp, the Chicago Theatre opened October 26, 1921, becoming the flagship of the Balaban and Katz chain.
Its vertical sign, with 6-foot letters, drawing the attention of the Exhibitors Trade Review.

Exhibitors Trade Review, December 3, 1921:
"The electric sign on the new Chicago Theatre is one of the largest hung on any theatre. It measures seventy-four feet from top to bottom and seven feet in width. A total of 2874 sockets are used in the construction, holding 75-watt lamps in the border. The entire display is made of high grade galvanized sheet iron, the face plates being 20-gauge, the interior efficiently braced and supported with steel angles and channel irons.Special cantilever construction has been used in attaching the sign to the wall of the theatre, a method which has made possible to do ways with wind braces.

"The main portion of the sign consists of the word 'CHICAGO,'  spelled in six-foot letters, extra deep grooved to take care of special lamps used. Above is 'Balaban & Katz' in twenty-four inch letters, and a four-line attraction border with alternating action goes around the display.

"The sign is more massive than would be apparent from its braces, as it weighs over seven tons. In action, the letters C-H-I-C-A-G-O spell on, burn steady, flash off and then come in solid.

"A part of the job is the four single-faced attraction panels, containing two rows of ten-inch changeable letters of special groove type. A continuous high-speed spectacular border goes around the panels.

"The strength of this sign is such that it absolutely dominates State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street and is even visible beyond the confines of the Loop. But all the brilliance of State Street only serves to emphasize the super-brilliance of this crowning achievement in sign construction. The sign was made and installed by the Thos. Cusack Co." 

The Chicago Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and designated as a historic Chicago landmark on January 28, 1983. Closed in 1985, it was purchased by the Chicago Theatre Restoration Association. After  an extensive restoration, the Chicago reopened in 1986 with a performance by Frank Sinatra.

Historic Theatres and Movie Palaces of Balaban & Katz 

Chicago Theatre on WordPress

Top photograph from Exhibitors Trade Review

Bottom: Chicago Theatre, 2001. One of several photos given to Theatre Talks by Darleen MacIntosh. Thanks Darleen.

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.


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