2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue,
13 people favorited this theater
Firms: Fridstein & Company
Previous Names: Teatro Azteca, Vincente Fernandez Theatre, Cine Mexico
News About This Theater
- Sep 10, 2013 — Chicago movie palaces today
- Jul 19, 2013 — New operators sought out for Chicago movie palaces
- Sep 12, 2012 — Chicago's Portage Theater has new owner
- Apr 18, 2012 — Congress Theater takes heat at City Hall hearing
A mix of architectural styles (including Adam and Italian Baroque), this theater has an elaborate large domed auditorium and is covered with decorations in stone, terra-cotta, and plaster. It remains remarkably intact, down to the original light fixtures and marble wainscoting.
The 2,904-seat Congress Theater was built for the Lubliner & Trinz chain. On its opening day, September 5, 1926, there were parades, band concerts, and a bathing beauty contest. The first movie shown at the Congress Theater was “Rolling Home”, a Reginald Denny comedy, as well as five Orpheum vaudeville acts. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 4 manual 20 ranks organ. In November 1929, the Congress Theater was taken over by the Balaban & Katz chain.
In the 1970’s, the Congress Theater was renamed Teatro Azteca, and screened Spanish-language films. Movies continued to be shown through the 1980’s when it was known as the Vincente Fernandez Theatre. By the 1990’s, the theater hosted live Latin acts, boxing matches, and an occasional film.
In 2000, the theater was threatened by demolition (for proposed condominiums), but the neighborhood rallied to the its defence. On July 10, 2002, the Congress Theater was declared a Chicago City Landmark.
This splendid survivor of the movie palace era functioned as one of Chicago’s grandest concert venues, and was closed for refurbishment in 2013. In January 2018 the Congress Theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In early-2020 work on the renovation/restoration of the theatre was halted, but restarted in May 2021.
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