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Hey David Zornig, I had the same observation about KenMc’s 04/11/09 post with the photo link: that “Diamonds Are Forever” is playing at the Woods (in fact I almost hyperventilated when I saw it). That was where I first saw “Diamonds” with my dad around Christmas of ‘71—an event that kick-started my life-long obsession with all things 007. Also saw “Live and Let Die” and “Man With The Golden Gun” there on their first runs, as well as a re-release double feature of “Thunderball” and “You Only Live Twice.” Sorry to prattle on about the Woods on the United Artists page—but I remember that all these Loop theaters were unavoidably linked out of sheer proximity!
My wife and I went here more than anywhere else when we were dating in the early ‘80s—mostly because of proximity (it was halfway between our homes). The design always struck me as somewhat minimalist (speaking as someone who grew up going to the movie palaces of Chicago in the '60s and '70s). But I remember that I liked going there because the chairs rocked, the sound systems were always excellent, and the screens were big in spite of it being a multiplex.
Came here as a college student (probably 1979-ish) to see a double bill of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Singin' in the Rain.” Great to see such classics on the big screen! The place was packed. Glanced back a couple of rows during intermission and saw Roger Ebert awaiting the next showing of “Singin' in the Rain.” I think I read somewhere that it’s his all time favorite film.
I remember that “Star Wars” played there for something like six months. My friend and I went one evening and sat through it twice. When it was a single screen, the Oakbrook was on the order of the McClurg Court—a huge screen with a great sound system, and very comfortable seats. Saw a variety of movies there over the years, before and after it was split up: “The Big Chill,” “European Vacation,” “Superman II,” “The Black Cauldron,”… Saw “The Karate Kid II” in the smaller auditorium that occupied the area near (behind?) the original screen. Kind of a strange experience to walk all the way back there and find another theater. This was obviously after it had been tripled (quadrupled? — I lost track after while).
An earlier post mentioned the Ridgeland—a Bohemian restaurant near (next door to?) the Berwyn. What memories that brings back! I’d forgotten about the restaurant. My dad and I went there often after a movie at the Berwyn. We also used to go across the street and down the block to a pizza place called Sorrento’s. Best pizza in town! I drive down Cermak to get to work most mornings. All those old haunts are gone. Only the Olympic (yeah, I know, it’s called the Concordia—but it’ll always be the Olympic to me) still stands.
My dad sang at a church near the Bryn Mawr theater for about thirty years. There used to be a hot dog place under the EL tracks across from the Bryn Mawr where we’d go to lunch. We always went to the movies after church, so if the Bryn Mawr was advertising something decent on the marquee, we were there. As I recall, it was pretty plain inside—definitely not a palace. But the price was right and I seem to recall that the picture and sound were always good. Saw many films there; “Taxi Driver” springs immediately to mind. And I spent one memorable afternoon (without Dad, for some reason) watching a re-release of “Gone With The Wind.”
My final visit to the old Yorktown was in ‘97 when I took my son to see the special edition of “Return of the Jedi.” It was the most stunning presentation I’d ever experienced—bright, clear image and crisp THX sound. Was therefore amazed to drive by there some weeks later and see that it had been torn down! We really like the new theaters that have gone up in their place, but can’t help wondering…what was wrong with the old ones? (Actually, I can answer that myself: there weren’t as many screens, and more screens mean more $$$$!)
In the 70’s, we lived in Oak Park on Austin Avenue—not really that far from the Ritz. But, like chitownguy, we tended to go to the Berwyn, Olympic, and Harlem-Cermak theaters in that neighborhood. Perhaps it was an accessibility issue; the Ritz was pretty much in a residential area. And although close to the city border, it was considered in “the suburbs,” which meant limited public transportation. For drivers, I don’t recall a lot of parking (if any). I do remember some of the movies I saw there though—“Willy Wonka,” a film called “Night Moves” (with Gene Hackman I believe), and one of those British “Carry On” comedies spring immediately to mind. The last film we saw there was a Roger Moore vehicle called “Shout with the Devil.” The theater was in such disrepair that there were stains all over the screen, some theater seats had been ripped out and were stacked up in front of the screen (and thus being projected on!), and the sound went out about halfway through the film for what seemed an eternity. The theater was clearly on its last legs, and management didn’t care about the quality of the film presentation. A shame that’s my last—and lasting—memory of the place. Seems like it was probably pretty nice in its heyday.
I’ll always remember that huge, slightly curved screen. It was the first time I’d ever seen one and it really immersed you in the movie-going experience. (In fact, as I recall, if you sat too close at just the right angle, the effect was rather dizzying!) My dad and I went there to see “Fiddler on the Roof,” a reissue of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “That’s Entertainment,” a Robert Blake film called “Electra Glide in Blue,” a reissue of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and “Logan’s Run,” amongst others. The last movie we saw there was “Moonraker” in 1979. By that time, we were living in the western suburbs, and it actually would have been closer for us to see it at the UA Cinema in Oak Brook. But we were big James Bond fans and we’d never seen a 007 film at the McClurg Court. So we made the trek into the city. I’m glad we did. It’s one of the lesser Bond films in terms of quality, but it makes up for that in spectacle—which made it perfect for the McClurg Court.
The Carnegie showed great movies, and always had very hip audiences. I remember sitting in packed houses that roared with laughter at first-run comedies like “Young Frankenstein” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” I believe I saw “Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother” there as well. Most memorable, though, was a Charlie Chaplin film festival that went on for several weeks circa 1972. I think they showed one film a week. I didn’t get there to see all of them, but I do remember seeing “Modern Times” and “The Great Dictator.” It was a unique opportunity to see a true comic genius on the big screen.
I have fond memories of the Esquire. My dad and I went there to see “Blazing Saddles” when it first opened. I remember going there myself to see an early Brian dePalma film called “Phantom of the Paradise.” And most memorable of all, standing outside the theater for an hour on a hot summer afternoon before getting in to see “Star Wars.” It seemed like the Esquire—and its neighbor, the Carnegie—showed films that were not only popular, but kind of hip.
Chitownguy, you’ve brought back a memory I’d forgotten: when the Harlem-Cermak was twinned, they didn’t adjust the seats to conform to the new configuration. As one big auditorium, the seating arrangement had a slight curvature so that you were always facing the screen in the middle. But when they made two auditoriums out of it, they didn’t move the seats to face the new screens, so you were always on a slight angle—sort of facing the corner of the room rather than the screen. It was like they just stuck a wall down the middle of the whole thing and walked away. I also remember going to see a movie when “Earthquake” was playing next door, and we could feel the Sensurround! It was unbelievably distracting and demonstrated the same lack of sensitivity by the management as the seating arrangement.
I remember seeing “The Ten Commandments” at the LaGrange with my mom when it was re-released in the 70’s. I think the last movie I saw there while it was still a single screen venue was “Xanadu.” They showed a Tom and Jerry cartoon to start, which was pretty cool—and a damn sight better than the movie. Saw some pretty good films there after it was split in two: “The Right Stuff,” “Out of Africa” (during which the management force-fit an intermission by simply stopping the movie halfway through!), and one particularly memorable double feature of “Never Say Never Again” and “Return of the Jedi.”
Haven’t been back too many times since it was split into four screens. Saw “Goldeneye” there, and took a bunch of neighborhood kids to see “The Phantom.” One time I took the kids there to see an animated film (can’t remember the title—something with penguins), and after the coming attractions, the film broke. They couldn’t get it fixed, so we got our money back and left.
I remember seeing a film at the Loop called “Equinox.” Truly awful. Not even sure how to categorize it (monster movie? sci-fi/horror flick?). I see someone in a previous post referred to it as a grade z thriller—that captures it perfectly. But my friends and I had a ball making fun of it. I also saw “The Sting” there when it first opened. Don’t recall going there too often…it was a smaller venue on a boulevard of cavernous movie palaces.
My family lived on the north side of Chicago, and then Oak Park. So trekking all the way south to the Coral was a big deal (especially since my dad was the one who usually took me to the movies and he relied on public transportation). But I do remember going there to see the Disney film “The Jungle Book” near the end of its initial run. I’d have gone to the Antarctic to see “The Jungle Book,” I loved it so much—and the Coral seemed just as far. But it was worth it; a favorite film in a lovely venue. And years later, I remember seeing a film there called “Fantastic Planet.” It was a strange little animated feature from, I believe, France. It’s become somewhat of a cult classic since…but I remember sitting there thinking that this was not like your typical Disney fare!
The only triple features that I can ever recall seeing were at the Marina Cinema. The most memorable, circa 1972, was a bill that featured “Dr. No,” “From Russia With Love,” and “Goldfinger.” For many years after, my dad and I would hearken back to that afternoon with misty-eyed nostalgia. I also remember going there to see a triple feature of “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” and “A Touch of Class.” (Thought I was going to say “Young Frankenstein” for that third one, didn’t you?!) I think the Marina Cinema was also the first place I saw an R-rated feature without an accompanying adult. If memory serves correctly, this event took place on my birthday, when I became “of age” (17) during a viewing of “The Omen.” I thus owe the Marina Cinema a debt of gratitude for helping foster my passage into adulthood. I’m surprised to learn the cinemas were only around for seven years. But considering that they were small auditoriums in an era when large theaters were still the norm, and that they were sort of hidden away on the lower level of Marina City, I guess I shouldn’t be that shocked.
I have wonderful memories of the Lake and the Lamar, but the Lamar always seemed to play my favorites—“MASH,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” and on and on. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this theater showed Indian films (don’t think they were called “Bollywood” yet) in the early 80’s.
I remember seeing some really good films at the Hinsdale—“Patton,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” and a double feature of “MASH” and “The Paper Chase” to name a few. This is going to sound weird, but one of the things I liked about the Hinsdale was that the restrooms were right in the back of the auditorium. You didn’t have to go out to the lobby to get to them. In fact, you could still hear the soundtrack of the film while “taking care of business.” It was nice, because—as long as you could still hear dialogue—you didn’t feel like you were missing any of the movie!
I recently moved back to the Hinsdale area and frequently drive past what used to be the theater. It’s a retail outlet now; the new facade suggests that it used to be something other than a store, and I have to admit it’s quite attractive—but I miss checking that marquee to see what’s playing as I cruise past!
We lived in the Portage Park area very near the Patio. I think we saw “The Sound of Music” there when it first came out. Resurrecting a subject from a few posters up (and many months back!), my aunt was visiting us with her family from Germany in the 60’s, and said they’d spent the afternoon at the “Payshow.” I thought that was an odd way to refer to a movie theater, but I figured she was roughly translating the word from German. Then I realized she meant she’d been to the Patio! I now live in the western ‘burbs, but I work on the north side in the Roscoe Village area. I’ve driven past the Patio on several occasions and am always happy to see the marquee. Hope this is one cinema treasure that survives.
In the 70’s, I remember seeing a couple of Sensurround films at the United Artists: “Earthquake” and, some years later, “Midway.” The sensation was rather like one of those vibrating beds gone out of control. In retrospect, it’s amazing that old structure didn’t collapse on us. I also remember “Star Wars” being there for what seemed like forever the summer it came out, although I had seen it further north at the Esquire.
I remember my dad taking me to see the James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever” at the Woods when I was about 12. It was a cinematic rite of passage that led to my being a lifelong Bond fan. The cool thing I remember was how the theater would immerse you in the moviegoing experience, from playing John Barry’s score between showings to featuring wallpaper in the washroom entrance with silhouettes of what my 12-year-old eyes absolutely swore were nude women—a visual staple of every Bond film’s opening credits. (Can anyone substantiate that last memory? Customized wallpaper seems like an odd way to promote a movie…but they used to do stranger things to market films back then.) We subsequently saw the first-runs of “Live and Let Die” and “Man With The Golden Gun” there. And I vividly remember going there to see a double feature of “Thunderball” and “You Only Live Twice,” which United Artists re-released to capitalize on the success of “Diamonds.” I know we saw other films there as well—Clint Eastwood’s “The Gauntlet” springs to mind—but it’s the initial viewing of those Bond films that have stuck with me.