Movie Palaces and Neighborhoods

There’s an article entitled “Theaters fade to black?” in today’s Chicago Tribune (

It briefly discusses “six endangered theaters” in scattered Chicago neighborhoods: the Patio

and the Portage in Portage Park,

the Congress in Logan Square,

the Central Park in North Lawndale

the Ramova in Bridgeport

and the Uptown in, well, Uptown.

Uptown Theater

Uptown Theater

Each of these theaters has had one or more local groups working to find alternative uses for these splendid neighborhood anchors over the years, and the article quotes Bonnie McDonald, the new president of Landmarks Illinois, about how “Even if you don’t have memories, you walk into a place of grandeur, and it inspires awe.”

Each of these theaters are significant cultural icons and resources for their surrounding communities. Over the 30 or 40 years of their local heyday, they brought neighbors together to share experiences in glittering, astonishing environments. And the many theaters that have been demolished played the same roles in their neighborhoods, too.

The remaining theaters are scattered around Chicago, but two paired sets – the Central Park and the Lawndale (which the Tribune barely mentioned) – and the Patio and the Portage – are at least in walking distance of each other. These two sets could easily comprise an individual Jane’s Walk (or whatever these events will ultimately be called) … but it would be great to be able to do an all-day event, visiting all of them. And the Patio has even been the subject of a successful Kickstarter campaign!

Years ago, I started writing a book on the importance of theaters to American downtowns, and to civic life in general. There’s still a great deal we can learn about theaters’ role as a necessary component of a vital, civilized city, and I hope Jane’s Walk CHICAGO can play a role in that.

P.S. Check out additional views of these theaters on my Bonus page, courtesy of Landmarks Illinois!

One thought on “Movie Palaces and Neighborhoods

Comments are closed.