Friday, August 23, 2013

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.

Forest Leaves, November 10, 1921:
"Balaban & Katz, than whom there is none more progressive or more artistic in the theatrical field, are the builders and sponsors of this gigantic playhouse."

Merely Colossal* by Arthur Mayer, former Paramount director of advertising, exploitation and publicity:
"It must be admitted, however that Balaban & Katz were responsible not only for the unprecedented comforts of the modern picture theatre but for many of its artistic atrocities. The repulsive splendor of rococo decorations, gargantuan crystal chandeliers, fake Doric columns and cathedral windows looking out on nothing, sinking carpets, rising pipe organs and overzealous, gold-braided service staffs were all theirs and they were quickly and widely copied all over the country with even greater pomp, less taste--and similar profits.

"Abe [Balaban] was the introducer of 'gigantic presentations.' When Valentino's Blood and Sand played the Balaban & Katz's houses, it was presented with sunlit patios and Spanish singers, dancers and guitar players. With Clara Bow's It (so called because Walter Wanger once heard Elinor Glyn say, 'That girl has it'), Abe came through with a hot jazz band and a not so hot version of a youthful petting party with more singing and dancing than insidious sex."

*Merely Colossal: The Story of the Movies from the Long Chase to the Chaise Lounge by Arthur Mayer, published by Simon and Schuster, 1953.

In discussing Balaban and Katz, Meyer does not mention the contributions made to the movie palace by Sid Grauman and "Roxy" Rothafel. 

1947 postcard showing three marquees on State Street  

Above photograph copyright by Betty Sword, all rights reserved

Both images are part of the Theatretalks collection, please ask permission to copy and/or use. At least give credit to source. We know that some people will not  honor this but it would be nice if they did.

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

He is currently accepting theatre talks and walks for the fall and winter-historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.

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