Anyone got a spare $70 mil? Uptown Theater, Chicago

derekleffew

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We've discussed Chicago's Uptown Theatre a little bit in the past, but not in any great detail. Sadly, I never got inside the place. As the comments to the article linked below state, every few years the topic of re-opening the theatre comes up, and then nothing happens. But it's possible--the Bismarck Theatre was closed the entire time I lived in Chicago, but now it appears to be doing well as the Cadillac Palace Theater. I'm totally a fiscal conservative/realist, but if venues like this are not saved, even if re-purposed, they are lost forever, and nothing built now or in the future will ever replace them.

Can Chicago's Uptown Theatre be restored to its former glory, and revitalize the Uptown neighborhood? - chicagotribune.com




Hint: Don't try to live stream the video while also downloading the iOS 5 update. The result was not pretty at all. Lost my cursor and locked up my keyboard. :(
[USER] ship[/USER], this is the same movie that I sent you the DVD of. So at least I contributed $10 to the relief effort.
 
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gafftapegreenia

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As a native of Detroit, a city of both wondrous restored movie palaces and lost ones of grand splendor, I've always felt that few buildings speak more of the American experience than the movie palaces.
 

patrickh

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WOW! What a video! Thanks for sharing!
 

ptero

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As a native of Detroit, a city of both wondrous restored movie palaces and lost ones of grand splendor, I've always felt that few buildings speak more of the American experience than the movie palaces.

Especially the ones turned into parking garages, eh? I totally agree about the American experience. One is transported to another time when in one of these gems.



(another native Detroiter - west side)
 

gafftapegreenia

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Especially the ones turned into parking garages, eh? I totally agree about the American experience. One is transported to another time when in one of these gems.



(another native Detroiter - west side)


Everyone always brings up the Michigan!

My favorite is probably the Redford. If anyone ever wants to see an incredible display of original lighting equipment, get a tour there. Make sure you peek into the supply closets offstage to see the piles of PC spots and Olivettes.
 

Van

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There is a Classic movie palace in Coos Bay Oregon. it's called The Egyptian. It was built in '27 I believe. As the name applies it was built at the height of 'Egypt Fever' in the US. and the themes play throughout the building. It looks like it would be much more at home in a Film Noire' set in LA than in Coos Bay. Apparently for some time Coos Bay was the busiest port on the west coast and that includes San Fran. Unfortunately since it's heyday they have converted the balcony to two seperate, smaller theaters. It's still beautiful, and there is still a Gigantically humongous Wurletzer organ right down in front of the Orchestra. The Organ still works and they occasionally do silent movie nights.

Apparently they have shut The Egyptian for safety reasons abut are restoring it.
http://www.egyptian-theatre.com/egyptian-theatre-history.htm
 
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No theatre will every be like that. It needs to be preserved for future generations. If it is not restored, it is like letting a diamond rot in the dirt.

-Patrick
 

SteveB

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I love old theaters and nothing built in modern times (50's on) compare in terms of beauty and style.

That said, there were a LOT of vaudeville theaters turned-into-movie-palaces way back when and you end up asking yourself, is there funding to save them, much lest renovate and then operate ?

And the answer sadly, is no.

The 30's vaudeville house turned-dinner-theater and where I met my future wife in 1978, was torn down 20 years ago. It was beautiful, Greek revivial, domed ceiling, murals of the 4 seasons, etc.... We took closed Broadway shows and ran them for months, often with the same cast. It was a great old theater that had many, many technical limitations and there was no interest in saving it. The site is now a senior care facility.

We are going to see this over and over now as these building deteriorate and get torn down. I cannot see where the money is going to come from to save most spaces and it sure ain't coming from the government. The trend is and has been to reduce public funding for the arts and getting the grants and gifts to renovate only gets you a new building, with no long term plans, usually, to operate.

Sad yes, but in some ways they are like beautiful old cars, nice to look at but not really practical for every day use with high tech requirements.
 

kiwitechgirl

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There's a similar theatre in Auckland, New Zealand - I think I've already posted this link here, a while ago, but check out The Civic - for film buffs, it's the theatre used in Peter Jackson's King Kong remake, where he takes Kong and he breaks loose and destroys the place! It was within a hair's breadth of being demolished but mercifully was saved and restored - used to be a picture palace but they put a stage house onto it and it's well-used and well-loved these days! Sadly there's another theatre over the road from the Civic, the St James, which is falling into disrepair after being closed due to a fire in an adjoining building. It's got Heritage status so the owner can't demolish it, but he can let it fall down of its own accord - breaks my heart as it could be an absolutely glorious building.

Sydney also has a similar (but not quite as OTT!) theatre - the Capitol which is thriving after a restoration.
 

len

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IMO, the problems with the Uptown are that 1, the Riv and the Aragon are right there, which means too much competition. Also, it's too big for a small theater and too small for an arena.

yeah, I'd like to see it restored. So much of the north side entertainment history is gone, like the Essenay Studios, the Edgewater Beach Hotel (Chaplin, Ellington, etc., played there), even the Green Mill is struggling. But there's only so many entertainment dollars to go around, even in good times.
 

shiben

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IMO, the problems with the Uptown are that 1, the Riv and the Aragon are right there, which means too much competition. Also, it's too big for a small theater and too small for an arena.

yeah, I'd like to see it restored. So much of the north side entertainment history is gone, like the Essenay Studios, the Edgewater Beach Hotel (Chaplin, Ellington, etc., played there), even the Green Mill is struggling. But there's only so many entertainment dollars to go around, even in good times.

I heard King Emanuel I wanted to try and turn that area into some sort of new "entertainment district", similar to how King Richard II worked on the "theater district", but other than hearing he wanted to do something of that sort, I have not heard anything else about it. Perhaps its just a hope and a dream... Would be cool tho!
 

len

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there's plenty of food choices in the area, especially if you like Vietnamese food. And it's pretty safe around there. The SRO hotels have been cleaned up, and there's not too many homeless people walking around (although there's still some). They really need to get rid of some of the crappy apartments south of Lawrence and re-gentrify that area to Wilson/Sheridan before they can build a strong district. But Chicago is so broke it's not going to happen for a long time.
 

shiben

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there's plenty of food choices in the area, especially if you like Vietnamese food. And it's pretty safe around there. The SRO hotels have been cleaned up, and there's not too many homeless people walking around (although there's still some). They really need to get rid of some of the crappy apartments south of Lawrence and re-gentrify that area to Wilson/Sheridan before they can build a strong district. But Chicago is so broke it's not going to happen for a long time.

And therin lies the real problem, the only hope of getting this sort of thing restored is going to be via city or other government money, and I just dont see that coming in any time soon. Gentrification is difficult and expensive in the first place, plus a lot of people hate it... and then they whine about how knocking down those truly horrific apartments is making them homeless... oh well what can one do. But it is a lot safer, was just there at night and it really wasnt bad, and some Excellent food.
 

museav

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You can't put a dollar value to the sense of grandeur and wonder created by such venues, however the comment in the video regarding people coming to see the venue even if the performance stinks is only valid if the venue is what is being sold. I believe that much of the justification for any public investment in a restoration of the Uptown would be the potential impact on the surrounding community and much of that would be predicated on it being a viable and active performance venue.

There is so much of a restoration like this that relates to aspects hidden from the public. The Uptown was apparently vacated 30 years ago due to the potential cost of repairs required at that time and was without heating or ventilation for part of that 30 years. That obviously has a tremendous impact on what would have to be included in any restoration or renovation. So would addressing current code compliance, there have been many changes over that time even with any exemptions due to the historic nature. As an example, ADA accessibility and the capacity of the restrooms are two aspects that typically still have to be addressed in historic venues. Then there is the need to do all this within the constraints imposed by the historical considerations. When you're looking for public funding and donations at some point it is inevitable that the question of how the cost of restoration compares to that of a functionally comparable new venue will be asked and I haven't seen much presented that suggests that the answer here would look that good.

Keeping in mind that there are not only the initial restoration costs involved with such venues but also often large ongoing operations and maintenance costs, many historic theater restorations are politically and economically viable due the the venue being able to cost effectively support a variety of events that both serve the community and generate a regular income stream. The Uptown apparently has limited stage and support space and other than the lobbies I cannot find any mention of ancillary event spaces. Maybe there are such spaces or they could be created as part of the restoration, otherwise the potential long term viability and success of a restoration of the Uptown would appear tied almost exclusively to events that are practical to hold in the auditorium.

Both audiences and productions really like coming to such unique venues, however production companies are businesses and patrons have finite funds so they will only do so as long as it makes economic sense to them. I have seen first hand that if production costs, and as a result the ticket costs, end up being significantly greater than for competing venues then there is a point where that will become a deciding factor. That can be a factor with older venues as the existing facility most likely does not incorporate many of the modern systems and conveniences that contemporary audiences expect or that modern productions require and addressing those within a building that was not designed for them and within the historic constraints would be financially if not physically challenging. If that prevents being competitive with other venues then there is only so much the aesthetic allure of the venue can do to prevent people choosing those other options.

Apparently the property is owned by Jam Productions, a private, for profit corporation, who, from what I could find, purchased it in 2008 for $3.2 million and as part of the sale also assumed liability for $1.8 million the City had previously invested. While there is still the argument for the potential value to the community by having such a venue, the ownership by a corporation, and one that also owns other venues in the area, would seem to create a rather unique situation in regards to any public funding and private donations. Things would probably be much simpler if some entity whose only interest was the Uptown, such as a dedicated non-profit, owned the property, however I have not seen anything indicating that the current owner seems interested in relinquishing ownership.

The reality is that many historic venue restorations happen because the people involved don't recognize, or refuse to recognize, that what they are doing makes no sense other than on a purely emotional basis. However, in the case of the Uptown the practical challenges of a restoration seem to be huge. The video and other information I could find do a very good job of presenting the ideals and good intent, however I wish they addressed the practical side a bit more. It would be great to see the Uptown be restored but somebody is going to have to create a plan that addresses the practical aspects or it may be just another failed attempt.
 

derekleffew

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The saga continues...
proxy.php

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/arti...morning10&utm_campaign=ccb-morning10-20171211
 

Blacksheep0317

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There is a Classic movie palace in Coos Bay Oregon. it's called The Egyptian. It was built in '27 I believe. As the name applies it was built at the height of 'Egypt Fever' in the US. and the themes play throughout the building. It looks like it would be much more at home in a Film Noire' set in LA than in Coos Bay. Apparently for some time Coos Bay was the busiest port on the west coast and that includes San Fran. Unfortunately since it's heyday they have converted the balcony to two seperate, smaller theaters. It's still beautiful, and there is still a Gigantically humongous Wurletzer organ right down in front of the Orchestra. The Organ still works and they occasionally do silent movie nights.

Apparently they have shut The Egyptian for safety reasons abut are restoring it.
http://www.egyptian-theatre.com/egyptian-theatre-history.htm
Hey Van, got any info on the organ by chance? They were all made out here and there are not many left around sadly. I love nothing more than following the preservation vollies around when they are up doing work. Our theatre (Sheas Buffalo PFC, 1930's) has a huge amount of the original space dedicated to organ bits. Its amazing. The door to the organ pit is actually right behind me as we type this. Still have an organist at doors for any show that doesn't need the organ pit space. Lion King has currently booted out the organ...:cry:
 

Van

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Hey Van, got any info on the organ by chance? They were all made out here and there are not many left around sadly. I love nothing more than following the preservation vollies around when they are up doing work. Our theatre (Sheas Buffalo PFC, 1930's) has a huge amount of the original space dedicated to organ bits. Its amazing. The door to the organ pit is actually right behind me as we type this. Still have an organist at doors for any show that doesn't need the organ pit space. Lion King has currently booted out the organ...:cry:
I don't know anything about the organ in that one. There is another HUGE organ installed in "The Elsinore" theatre in Salem Oregon. The guy who maintains it is an Organ Junkie. He constantly upgrades, reworks, and demos the thing. I once heard him play "In The Mood" with full orchestration!

http://elsinoretheatre.com/downloads/elsinore-organ-history.pdf
 
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Jay Ashworth

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Happy to report that they just got done spending something like $10M to renovate the Tampa, for the first time since, I think, 1976. Haven't gotten over there yet to see how it came off...
 

TimMc

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Hey Van, got any info on the organ by chance? They were all made out here and there are not many left around sadly. I love nothing more than following the preservation vollies around when they are up doing work. Our theatre (Sheas Buffalo PFC, 1930's) has a huge amount of the original space dedicated to organ bits. Its amazing. The door to the organ pit is actually right behind me as we type this. Still have an organist at doors for any show that doesn't need the organ pit space. Lion King has currently booted out the organ...:cry:

We have the NYC Paramount Theater's Wurlitzer organ in the Exhibition Hall of our local PAC. "The Dowager Empress". The PAC is almost 50 years old and the organ owners, Wichita Theater Organ, Inc have been notified by the City that the organ will have to be removed (the lease was up a long time ago) before renovations and remodeling can take place. The owners are looking for another public facility but it's a tough search because of the size and weight of wind chests, pipework and toy counter.
 

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