Chicago Lecture

View from the stage Portage Theatre Chicago, IL

View from the stage Portage Theatre Chicago, IL


I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be giving a lecture on abandoned theaters in partnership with the Theatre Historical Society of America, at the Portage Theatre in Chicago, IL on Thursday November 13, 2014.

Doors open at 6:30 and the lecture starts at 7:00. Admission is free.

The lecture will be an updated version of “The Fall of the American Movie Palace” with some of my more recent work, including some photographs of the Loew’s Kings Theatre renovation.

Below is a brief history of the Portage Theater from the theater’s website:

Located at Six Corners in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago’s Northwest Side, the Portage Theater is one of the oldest movie houses in Chicago. The Portage Theater opened on December 11, 1920 as the Portage Park Theatre (the former name is still visible on the building’s facade). Built for the Ascher Brothers circuit with 1,938 seats, the Portage was the first theater built specifically for film (and not vaudeville) in the area.

The Portage Theater’s interior features a megaphone-shaped auditorium based on a formal Beaux-Arts opera house design. When the theater was taken over by Balaban and Katz in 1940, its marquee, entrance lobby and foyer were redecorated in a sleek, streamlined art deco style to complement other prominent art deco designs at Six Corners such as Sears department store and the Klee Brothers building.

The Portage remained a popular fixture of the neighborhood, becoming a second-run movie house in the 1960s. In the 1980s, the theater underwent a dramatic change when a wall was constructed down the middle of the existing auditorium, resulting in two oddly-shaped cinemas. The Portage was shuttered in 2001 after operating sporadically for the previous couple years. The theater was restored and renovated, and reopened after a five-year hiatus in the spring of 2006 as a single-screen, 1300-plus seat theater showing both silent and sound classic motion pictures as well as hosting other live events.

Today the historic Portage Theater is a multi-purpose venue committed to bringing unique cinema, live music and performing arts to it’s community and surrounding neighbors of Chicagoland .


4 thoughts on “Chicago Lecture

  1. matt- give me a call sometime since you will be in my neck of the woods – thanks, eric

    eric j. nordstrom, owner

    urban remains warehouse

    1850 w. grand ave.

    chicago, il. 60622

  2. As someone who went bust trying to save a 2672-seat movie palace in 1976, I applaud what you do. As it turns out, our palace, the St. George Theatre in Staten Island, was abandoned, used for a variety of unfortunate purposes, including a roller rink, but remained more or less intact until it was rescued around fifteen years ago. It’s a working house today, although for almost thirty years I expected its demolition. For a variety of reasons–not the least of which is that you’re a brilliant photographer–I shiver at much of your work. Thank you.

  3. Pingback: State Theatre – South Bend, Indiana – After the Final Curtain

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