Monday, January 9, 2012
The Chicago Theatre
The Chicago Theatre, so grand and magnificent a building it was dubbed “the Wonder Theatre of the World” at its opening in 1921. The first of its kind, it became a prototype for a generation of “movie palace” theater construction. It stands today as a reminder of that era of remarkably beautiful buildings.
French Baroque, the theater features murals, a replica of the Arc de Triomphe sculpted on its State Street side. The grand lobby, five stories high, is modeled after the Royal Chapel at Versailles. The grand staircase is reminiscent of the Paris Opera House. One wonders if anything on stage could be half so diverting as the venue?
Movies were the order of the day, and “The Sign on the Door” was the debut flicker with Norma Talmadge on October 26, 1921, accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra in the pit, and a thundering Wurlitzer pipe organ.
A showcase not just for movies, live entertainment shared the auditorium with bands such as Duke Ellington’s and Benny Goodman’s.
Then, as we have noted with so many of these theater histories, the 1970s came. Then the 1980s. They brought disuse, decay, but this theater managed to escape the third D - demolition. The Chicago Theatre was restored and reopened in 1986. Frank Sinatra performed at the gala reopening, and the future for this theater finally seemed as bright as its past.
For more on the Chicago Theatre, including detail and photos on its spectacular interior, have a look at this website.