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Chicago Theatre

 Featured Photos


The Chicago Theatre was completed in 1921 as the flagship theatre of the Balaban & Katz empire, built primarily as a movie palace but with stage facilities included. Architects Cornelius W. Rapp and George L. Rapp designed the theatre in the Neo-Baroque French-revival style, the most obvious nod being the theatre’s 6-storey façade echoing Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. The massive 7-storey movie palace takes up half a city block and seats 3,600 (originally 3,880).

The interior of the 5-storey Grand Lobby was modeled after the Royal Chapel at Versailles, with a Grand Staircase modeled on the Paris Opera House. The Balaban & Katz coat-of-arms, two horses holding 35mm film in their mouths, can be seen in the Grand Lobby’s stained glass frontage.

The theatre’s marquee, although not the original, is almost as famous as the theatre having represented the city on many occasions with its iconic CHICAGO lettering playing-out in multi-colored lights. The Y-shaped figure behind the central C is the city’s “municipal device”, a badge which symbolizes the forked Chicago River at Wolf Point.

At its opening the Chicago Theatre was billed as “The Wonder Theatre of the World”, and with its lavish decoration (drapes, furniture and interior decoration by Marshall Field, Steuben glass light fixtures, ceiling murals by Louis Grell – some 30ft wide) it’s hard to deny it that title. The theatre boasts a 1921 Wurlitzer Organ, renovated in 1970, which is one of the oldest “Might Wurlitzers” in existence to this day.

The lobby promenades (see photo below) were boarded-over in the 1950s but were found to be intact and revealed in all their glory during the 1986 major restoration of the theatre.

Finally, in a tradition which carries on to this day, the corridor walls backstage have been signed by stars who have graced the Chicago’s stage…from Frank Sinatra to Kelly Clarkson!

 How do I visit the Chicago Theatre?

As of March 2017 tours run daily at the Chicago Theatre, generally with no reservation needed unless on a busy weekend. Tours commence 12pm (Noon) at the State St entrance, cost approx $15, and run for about an hour. Expect to see the Grand Lobby, Auditorium, Stage (assuming it’s available), Wurlitzer Organ, and the autographed corridors backstage. Exact itinerary depends on the visiting company’s schedule and not all areas may be available on any given day. Check out the Chicago Theatre’s Tour website Link opens in new window for more details.

Upcoming Special Events
Chicago Theatre Marquee Tour

Chicago Theatre Marquee Tour (12pm daily)

Go on a history-filled journey, from the inception of this majestic venue in 1921, all the way to its present-day incarnation as a premiere entertainment venue. The Marquee Tour encompasses historical and architectural highlights of the building, including the grand lobby, sweeping staircase and majestic auditorium. Tour guests have the chance to stand on the famous Chicago Theatre stage, plus view artist signatures on the dressing room walls, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Dolly Parton and so many more!

Tours run daily at 12 pm and are one hour long. Ticket Prices: Adults: $15, Students and Military: $13, Children (12 & under): $10. Groups (10+): For more information on group tickets, call (312) 462-6332.

Tour content, prices, dates, and times are subject to change without notice. Tours are offered on a first come, first served basis and are subject to availability.

For more info see: https://www.msg.com/venue-tours/the-chicago-theatre Link opens in new window

 Further Reading


 Technical Information

Stage Dimensions
Proscenium Width 70ft
Stage Depth 32ft
Stage Width 123ft
Historic Photos & Documents

Historic files shown here may be subject to copyright; review our “Fair Use” statement here.

 Photos of the Chicago Theatre



Exterior and Public Areas

All photographs copyright © 2002-2018 Mike Hume/historictheatrephotos.com. For licensing and/or re-use contact me here.

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