UA Marina Cinemas

300 N. State Street,
Chicago, IL 60610

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BillJunior on January 9, 2021 at 11:22 am

Marina City Cinemas opened September 25, 1970. “Hello, Dolly!” was in cinema 1; “The Hawaiians” in cinema 2 and, “MASH“ was screened in cinema 3. The saddle-shaped theater (exterior) was constructed between 1963 and 1968.

According to a 1970 newspaper ad (per current Marina City website) the cinemas were Chicago’s first “mini-cinemas”. A Tribune article described them as “Chicago’s first fully automated movie theaters..”. Seating held 296, 198 and 168 people, per same website. The three cinemas closed in 1977 with “Rocky” and “Young Frankenstein” being the last pictures shown there.

After closure of the theaters, the cinema spaces languished for decades. In November 1996, the House of Blues opened at Marina City and (as stated on the entry of this page) the performance space at House of Blues incorporated the former cinemas, in addition to taking-in the building’s upper lobby for the parking garage.

DavidZornig on October 1, 2020 at 6:02 pm

1971 photo via Flickr. Looking East, Marina Cinemas on the right.

DavidZornig on April 30, 2019 at 10:48 am

Construction photo added with credit and link. (Link would not successfully post here in comments.)

JudithK on February 24, 2016 at 5:46 am

Given the fact that I was out of town during the majority of Marina Cinemas' era (the theatres were open from 1970-1977, and I was away from 1971-1975) it is not surprising that I never saw a motion picture there. To date I have never been in the Marina City complex. I do appreciate the descriptions provided; thanks!

GFeret on January 8, 2014 at 11:16 am

yeah, for that film you want to walk one block south and 3 blocks east, catch the restored LAWRENCE at the McClurg Ct where they ran the restored 70mm version(some years later on in 1989). Marina Cinemas was perfect for Woody Allen films, where i saw EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX when it opened. what bellylaughs my & my friends had

thejimdoherty on January 7, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I sort of had to laugh at the photo of the marquee. Can you imagine seeing something as gigantic as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA on one of those little Marina City screens?

GFeret on January 7, 2014 at 12:42 pm

i went to see movies here many times in the early-mid ‘70s. back then it was still possible to unearth a downtown free parking space on lower level wacker drive (in the vicinity of clark st). the thompson center had yet to replace the greyhound bus terminal. the film programming was near art-house in nature, so a welcome alternative to the mainstream look cinemas. the feeling then was while the old downtown movie palaces definitely were in a state of decline and being avoided more and more, this was not so at marina cinemas, all you had to do was cross the chicago river bridge that’s all. a slight problem was most people, including my friends, tended to forget about the marina cinemas altogether. knowing this i’d suggest a film to see and they’d ask with interest where it’s playing. when i replied marina cinemas they’d pause, finally say “oh, yeah”. then i’d add we’d eat afterwards @ pizzeria due’s just 2 blocks away. and lastly that old photo seen here of the 3 films playing @ 1-2-3 is just perfect IMO—those’re exactly the types of films i’d expect to see advertised playing here on a weekly basis. yes i miss the place and will never violate it’s memory for dan aykroyd’s sake

rivest266 on June 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm

September 25th, 1970 grand opening ad is in the photo section.

thejimdoherty on January 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I only went to this theatre a few times, when my dad took me to see revivals of KING KONG and some Marx Brothers movies (1971?, I think I still have a couple of handouts from the revival series)and I believe later, for a revival of FANTASIA, although I may be wrong on that one.

kencmcintyre on July 18, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Here is the ad that Mike Rivest mentioned in January 2006:

DavidZornig on April 14, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Reactivate Notification Status.

DavidZornig on August 16, 2008 at 12:05 pm

P.S. To more accurately answer your question, I believe you too are correct. The HoB restaurant portion is and rather above the old theatres space.

The old theatres were accessed via the buildings lower level. But the 3 theatres would have cielings and screens that would likely span upwards, if that makes sense. Marina City was into “levels” for everything. Steps up to step down, etc.

The 3 hall configuration is intriguing. I’ll check it out. The screening rooms though seemed small compared to other theatres.
It again would be neat to see the original Marina City plans versus the HoB floorplan.
The ice rink was in the lower level too on the State Street side.
I’ve never looked in Smith & Wolensky’s lower level to see how it was changed. They seemed to have actually built up and down, in their space. There was a little offset room for the mini Zamboni the rink used throughout the day and night. There were 3 sisters regularly from Sacred Heart Academy, that were if anything professional skaters. They routinely melted the ice. Every pun intended.

DavidZornig on August 16, 2008 at 11:37 am

Greetings. My recollection was you accessed the theatres either through the West tower residential entrance, now the HoB lobby, and down an escalator. Or via the small Dearborn Street stairwell.
I don’t remember there being any type of real main entrance to the theaters.

The space age looking tube I refered to was access from the office building that housed Spencer’s Bowl, later the HoB Hotel, and ran under the main driveway overhead that connects State St. to Dearborn St. Through Marina City’s property. This access I believe still exists, and is next to the HoB HR office down on that level.Just West of the building commissary.

Part of the original “city within a building” concept, was the non-descript way that it included everything you would ever need. Stores, restaurant/bars, movies, skating, bowling and a boat marina complete with gas pumps.

More non-descript was the theatre’s actual indoor entrance. No real lobby to speak of. Once downstairs, just a few steps up to a counter for both tickets & refreshments. Only those backlit/shadow box poster housings on one wall indicated it was the theatres. Blue burlap walls were behind the ticket counter. All `60’s modern looking. Remember, these were likely considered Marina City’s theatres. Not the public’s, but yet it was open to the public. Like their own version of Cribs on MTV. Maybe Super Cribs.

Furthermore, the original plan was to regularly ship the buildings garbage away via barges on the river. Each floor has a trash chute that filled a hanging dumpster, that was then cabled away and down out over the river and onto a barge.
I don’t think this plan lasted long, or was even ever actually utilized as planned. In late 1990 or so, I was down near the marina, and saw a long suffering trashman, endlessly winching and aligning this cabled dumpster to his below street level access. In order to winch it onto a truck to be driven away like you normally see at construction sites. The whole process seemed to take 20 minutes or better. He just kept shaking his head.
I can’t imagine using trash barges was ever cost effective on a regular basis.

There was Marina Cinema’s signage facing South, on the giant horseshoe shaped building. Underneath that was the Dearborn stairwell entrance. If anything, this entrance could be considered the main one. If you weren’t already in the building.
Hope this helps.

I’m a newcomer to posting on Cinema Treasures. And just love it and am thankful it exists. Thanks to Bryan and all those who contribute.
So far I’ve learned I need to remember to Log-In every time I visit the site. When I didn’t, all that I wrote in the comments was lost until I did.
I know, I know, get a computer. And throw my WebTV on a barge. It’s so 1999 though.

Broan on August 16, 2008 at 8:56 am

My impression was that the House of Blues restaurant was in the theater space. It’s even kinda in a 3-hall configuration. Which entrance to the building was used for the theaters?

DavidZornig on August 16, 2008 at 7:21 am

Thanks to BWChicago posting some photo links to the Carnegie Theatre page, I was reminded of some Marina City Cinema memories. (The current House of Blues was pictured.)

As with most of Marina City, there was an illuminated, space age type tube, that was one of the access walkways to the Marina Cinema’s entrance. Something you’d see in 2001 A Space Oddity or a Bond film.

There were then 3 illuminated poster boxes showing what was playing on each screen, just outside the entrance & concession stand. The 3rd of such boxes was relegated to “Coming Attractions” when the place was reduced to 2 active screens as outlined in a another post.

Depending on who was working where when, it was sometimes possible to cross from theater to theatre in between shows. Some ushers looked the other way. Some were justifiably strict. I think they staggered the start times to discourage this practice.
Imagine the unions horror were they to have known that someone was getting to see two films, when they paid for only one. The humanity!
Though morally, it was still wrong.

This was evident on the one and only time I did it. This particular day, we left a PG film and got into an R rated one. We thought we were slick, until it turned out to be a 2nd run of Bonnie & Clyde. The films brutal depiction of violence at 12 or 13 years of age, was all we needed to know that what we had done was wrong. Nightmares for weeks.

I remember seeing American Graffitti there, Juggernaut, and Chariots of the Gods. I think The Poseidon Adventure had a 2nd run there, after it’s first run at The State Lake.

We also skated regularly at the Marina Ice Rink. Now the lower portion of Smith & Wolensky’s Steak House. There was also a seafood restaurant behind the rink, the Nantucket Cove or something. Also a sports bar over looking the river called the Time Out. Though it still sported a nautical interior from it’s original incarnation.

I was just at Marina City 2 weeks ago.
the lower level is still very winding, and it appears some House of Blues offices partially occupy the old theatre’s space. The building’s small grocery store or commissary is still there. Though the deli counters were kind of sparse looking. That haunted empty feeling the lower level always had.

One good thing about the Marina Cinema’s was access to buses in both directions on both State & Dearborn streets.

I only wish it had remained open long enough to screen the afore mentioned Steve McQueen film The Hunter. It would have been neat to view chase scenes in Marina City, from Marina City.

Broan on August 3, 2007 at 8:54 am

the other is Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Darrel Wood
Darrel Wood on August 3, 2007 at 6:09 am

The second (downward, stylized) is Chicago 13

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on August 3, 2007 at 5:21 am

Here’s a bit of trivia about Marina City, although not related to the theatres. Marina City is prominent on the cover photos of which two major compact discs?


1 One CD is by an Illinois based band. The other is by a band formerly based in IL (but for many, many years has been based in CA).

2 One CD has a partial, semi-looking-up view. The other is a downward view and is heavily style-ized!

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on July 31, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Catherine DiM, Many years ago I would wait for the 62 ARCHER HARLEM bus on the southwest corner of State and Wacker across the river from Marina City. Now that you mention it, that does seem to ring a bell. Seems to me the WLS logo was up by the antenna or transmitter. Anyone know where a picture is?


CatherineDiMartino on July 30, 2007 at 9:24 am

Per Ret. AKC (NAC) Bob Jensen’s comment, I do recall that WLS TV (Channel 7) had is logo on Marina City. But that may have been because their antenna was on one of the towers.

Broan on July 20, 2007 at 11:26 am

The Marina Cinemas, as I said before, were located in former meeting room space below the WFLD studios, which now make up the Music Hall portion of the House of Blues. The cinemas space now makes up part of the restaurant and shop of HOB.

On an odder note, I came across July 1970 ads saying the “Marina Tower” would open with Hello Dolly, which obviously didn’t happen until September. That name makes me wonder if UA might have originally have planned this as a single and changed course during construction. The fact that the Marina Cinemas were so detested by the projectionists union is rather ironic given that the Marina City project was designed as an investment for the Janitors and Elevator Operators union.

I don’t know why this would be listed as Open, there is a lot of inconsistency. For example, the Gold Mill (gutted; fitness center), Calo (intact; retail), and Central Park (intact; church) are all listed as Closed, while the Water Tower (upper theaters retail; lower partly gutted and converted back to live theater) are Open. However, I don’t see what’s open about the Marina Cinemas any more than the 900 N Michigan; they’re within a complex and no trace is apparent.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on July 14, 2007 at 8:20 am

CATHERINE DiM, as BWChicago states above on April 2, 2006 WFLD-TV Channel 32 was in the theatre building. What is now WLS-TV Channel 7 started out as WBKB-TV, owned by Balaban and Katz (no doubt BK stood for B&K}. Hard to believe , but the station went on the air in 1941! It was located in the B&K State and Lake Theatre Building at 190 North State Street on the forth floor. ABC bought WLS 890 Radio from Prairie Farmer Magazine in about 1959. WLS Radio at one time had been owned by Sears and Roebuck, therefore the call letters WLS for Worlds Largest Store. At sometime ABC bought WBKB and changed the call letters to WLS. WLS-TV is still in the State and Lake Building, alas the theatre is now gone and is now their sidewalk studio.
DAVID BALABAN (or anyone else) please add or correct anything I have wrong.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, THIS IS CINERAMA!”

CatherineDiMartino on July 13, 2007 at 9:46 am

I remember that WLS-TV was located there and the Channel 7 logo was on the outside of the building. The logo was high up, faced south, and could be seen from State Street.

So then, to clarify, the theatre space is still there, but gutted and vacant? Not totally demolished per se?

Broan on July 13, 2007 at 8:39 am

The House of Blues is on the upper part of the building, which used to be television studios, and the theaters are gutted. The status is correct.

CatherineDiMartino on July 13, 2007 at 5:56 am

The status of this place should not be “Closed/Demolished.” The building is standing and is alive and well as the House of Blues. Therefore, the status should be “Open” and the function “Concerts.”