Senate Theatre

3128 W. Madison Street,
Chicago, IL 60612

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rivest266 on August 14, 2020 at 12:14 pm

Held an reopening on December 30th, 1937. Grand opening ad posted.

Broan on October 3, 2015 at 5:34 pm

During planning and construction, the Senate was originally to be called the Panacea. Weird name!

DavidZornig on December 26, 2014 at 9:40 am

Just added a 1934 photo courtesy of Gregory Russell. Early marquee and blade sign.

BobbyS on November 23, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Thanks for posting Rick. Great to read all the movie ads of the day.

RickB on November 22, 2014 at 3:38 pm

From February 20, 1977, a brief article on the Senate’s demolition, treating it as an example of the many theaters torn down in the city’s neighborhoods. There’s a picture, but it’s from microfilm and so not very good. The movie listings on the page are better.

BobbyS on June 27, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Thanks rivest266 for the photos plus all the rest you have presented. Enjoyed them all. I still say it was hard to understand the MARBRO closing and the demolition following and the Senate still showing pictures. Madison & Crawford area wasn’t that bad yet.

rivest266 on June 27, 2012 at 5:50 pm

February 12th, 1921 grand opening ad with close-ups has been uploaded here.

BobbyS on June 21, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Thanks SBGreig for the info. It is very nice to remember such wonderful memories where our family would visit together especially after a movie. I really did think the Marbro would outlive the Senate. I couldn’t believe when the Marbro was closed for good and the Senate was still operating!

SBGreig on June 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm

You’re thinking of “Little Jack’s”. Zoom down the Street View until you see Edna’s on the left. That’s where it was. Somewhere in CTA’s photo archives is/was a picture of a westbound Madison streetcar with the restaurant (and the Senate) plainly visible.

Yes, they were legendary for their ricotta-and-raisins cheesecake (the recipe can be found on the ‘Net with some effort) and lasted until 1962, another casualty of the changing neighborhood.

This may bring back a few memories of Little Jack’s:

BobbyS on January 31, 2011 at 12:42 am

I bought the book and went to a lecture by Irving Cutler. Does anyone remember “Little Joe’s” across the street from the theater? They had a wonderful N.Y. cheesecake. I really believed the Marbro would outlive them all, even the Alex. It was the most beautiful and in a better central area than any of the others.

KenC on June 10, 2010 at 10:08 pm

In “IMAGES of AMERICA- CHICAGO’S JEWISH WEST SIDE” by Irving Cutler, there is a shot of the Senate Theatre on page 89. It is closed, with the marquee damaged. According to the text, it was ruined after the riots of 1968. Closed March 1973.

kencmcintyre on January 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm

This is from Boxoffice magazine in April 1962:

The Senate Theater in Chicago made front page headlines when a lion refused to carry out his feature role in a stage show which had the house filled to capacity. The lion, named Hank, had been trained to do a disappearing act in a magician program. To get the lion, Charles Gomez, owner of the Senate, had to buy him from the Animal Kingdom pet shop. When he steadfastly refused to perform, Gomez decided to raffle him off. He was won by a couple who didn’t know how to handle him and Hank was returned to the pet shop-but no refund to Gomez.

tudnut on September 16, 2007 at 1:18 am

My Aunt Geri, a Jewish lady (the rest of the family was Catholic…don’t ask me!) used to tell us of growing up nearby and attending the Senate in the days when it was giving out dishes and what-have-you, and having occasional Bingo meetings before and after shows.

I have to take exception to Bryan’s comments, though. Saying that the Senate lost out against the Marbro and the Paradise can’t possibly be true.

For one thing, both of those theaters closed before the Senate did. (And were sadly demolished much sooner, for that matter.)

For another, we aren’t talking about some small David vs. the big Goliaths here: the Senate was HUGE (though admittedly not the biggest theater around).

Every neighborhood back then had its theaters. And every large community was its own neighborhood. People walked to the shows, so whichever were closest were the neighborhood shows.

At Madison and Crawford (admittedly, at that time, a monstrous mercantile area) there were the Marbro and the Paradise (as well as a few smaller shows).

But the Senate was a whole mile farther east, at Madison and Kedzie. It isn’t likely that the people at that end of Garfield Park were going to walk all the way west to go to those theaters. They went to the Senate (depending on what was playing, of course! We theater lovers tend to think only in terms of visiting theaters; real people were going to see the shows!).

And a mile farther east (at Madison and Western) were the 4-Star and the Imperial, both also good sized theaters.

Given that all three locations were thriving communities, I hardly see that the Marbro and Paradise were driving people away from the Senate (no more than the 4-Star and Imperial were).

If anything contributed to the demise of the Senate (or, for that matter, to a lot of other old theaters listed on here), I’d say it was the decline of the community (along with, of course, the usual reasons of television and new theater strategies supplanting the old monster theaters). Without going into the history (or trying in any way to offend any people that live there), those areas have been virtual ghost towns for years now…and only recently have been showing signs of life again (no theaters yet, though…and of course, we’ll never see the likes of the Paradise or the Senate again!).

After all, the Senate certainly outlived both of the palaces at Crawford, and I’m pretty sure outlived those at Western, as well.

It’s kind of silly to say that a theater died because of the influence of another theater a mile away that was torn down five years before.

Love theaters or not, I think the Senate made do a lot better than either the Marbro or Paradise did. Heck, the Alex, one of the small theaters at Madison and Crawford, outlived all of them.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 4, 2006 at 6:24 pm

Also: kind of interesting that it outlasted the more modern Paradise and Marbro, which gave the Senate a serious run for it’s money.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 3, 2006 at 6:57 am

I’m not sure, but I think that there might have been some scattered events presented here after it closed in ‘69.