In a city once filled with enormous and elaborate movie houses, none has lasted longer or been more revered than the Chicago Theatre, a structure that in concept and design defines the golden age of movie palaces in the United States.
The first downtown theater built for the Balaban & Katz theater chain by the brother architects George and Cornelius W. Rapp, the Chicago dazzled its customers when it opened on this date.The Chicago had everything: a location at 175 N. State St. that dominated the Loop, an exterior ablaze with electric lights, a lobby with towering marble columns and a grand staircase, and a 3,880-seat auditorium.
The Chicago's opening day fare was typical of the entertainment that these shrines to movie fantasies were to offer for many years. There was a feature film, (the long-forgotten "The Sign on the Door," starring Norma Talmadge), a stage show with a star headliner ( Buster Keaton) and, of course, a mini-concert on the Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ.
Other movie palaces soon rose above the storefronts and sidewalks.
But in post-World War II America, the old palaces fell on hard times.
The landmark Chicago, threatened with destruction in the mid-1970s, survived. Restored and brought back to something like its original luster, it opened again on Sept. 10, 1986. It has continued to function as an important part of Chicago's downtown life.