186 N. Dearborn Street,
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Previously operated by: Great States, M & R Theatres, Plitt Theatres
Architects: Charles Howard Crane, H. Kenneth Franzheim
Previous Names: Selwyn Theatre, Todd's Cinestage Theatre, Dearborn 2
News About This Theater
- Apr 1, 2013 — "2001: A Space Odyssey" 45th Anniversary – The Cinerama Engagements
- Dec 9, 2012 — Happy 50th, “Lawrence of Arabia”
- Sep 15, 2008 — Remembering Cinerama
- Sep 13, 2008 — Post Monday 9/15 Please -- Remembering Cinerama
The Selwyn Theatre was designed in 1922 by C. Howard Crane (who also designed the adjacent Harris Theatre) for theatrical producers Sam Harris and Edgar Selwyn. It was opened on September 18, 1922 with Somerset Maughan’s comedy “The Circle” and had 1,058-seats It was done in English Georgian style, whereas Crane designed the Harris Theatre in Italian Renaissance style. Among those to appear on stage at the Selwyn Theatre and Harris Theatre’s included Ethel Barrymore, Charles Laughton, Helen Hayes, and Mae West.
In the mid-1950’s Mike Todd, of Todd-AO sound system fame, purchased both the former Selwyn Theatre & Harris Theatre. The last live production at the Selwyn Theatre was “A Hatful of Rain” in October 1956. After it closed as a legitimate playhouse, it was converted it into the first permanent Todd-AO showplace in Chicago, opening on April 4, 1957 as Todd’s Cinestage Theatre with David Niven in “Around the World in 80 Days”. (Todd also acquired the Harris Theatre, which was renamed for Todd himself). In fact, the entire stage was removed for the transformation to Todd-AO.
The theatre was also known unofficially as owner Mike Todd’s laboratory, where he experimented with many different aspects of Todd-AO. The theatre also used the legendary Smell-O-Vision process and the Smell-O-Vision machine was still in the basement when the building was demolished.
After the road show days, Great States Theatres(later Plitt Theatres from 1974) ran the Cinestage as an adult theatre from the late-1980’s and a flat screen was installed in front of the original Todd-AO strip screen for this purpose. Pornographic films were shown at the Cinestage from August 28, 1970, beginning with “Trader Horne-” and it was an adult cinema for about 10 years.
Following this, M & R Theatres tried unsuccessfully to revive the Cinestage and it was renamed Dearborn 2 from December 20, 1985, but this attempt was short-lived and the buildings were ultimately abandoned. Interestingly, the building was owned by Todd’s widow, Liz Taylor at the time. The city finally bought it from the actress, with plans to build a performing arts center on the same location.
Just before its demise, Cinema Treasures contributor Mark Gulbrandsen snuck into the theatre and he reports it was in pretty poor shape overall. The strip screen was still in place, as was the flat screen that was installed to cover it. The projection booth was empty and only slight remnants of the Norelco projectors were to be found. It was demolished in the 1990’s.
Thankfully, at least the elegant façade of the building and its next door neighbor, the Michael Todd Theatre, were salvaged and restored and now compose the majority of the Dearborn Street façade of the new Goodman Theatre complex, which built its new home on the site of the old Cinestage and Michael Todd Theatre’s, as well as the demolished Woods Theatre.
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Recent comments (view all 49 comments)
April 4th, 1957 grand opening ad as Cinestage as well as the December 20th, 1985 grand opening ad as Dearborn Cinemas can be both found in the photo section for this theatre.
Blurry Cinestage in the background.
New Showcase Presentations in Chicago article includes mention of the numerous 70mm (and roadshow) engagements here at the Cinestage (along with other Chicagoland cinemas).
1987 photo added, as the Dearborn part of M&R Dearborn Cinemas, via The Man On Five website.
August 28th, 1970 reopening as a adult cinema. https://www.newspapers.com/image/376856762/
Cinestage reopening · Fri, Aug 28, 1970 – 49 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.com
Fifty years ago today, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” premiered here.
To celebrate the occasion, I’m sharing the link to a new retrospective article on the film. This and many other cinemas get a mention in the piece.
Five January 1960 Smell-O-Vision related images added, courtesy of Sid Terror’s Haunted Film Vault Facebook page.
Kevin Mueller photo.
This is Goodman theatre now should be open!
Typically still considered demolished when it’s a facadectomy