Apollo Theatre

74 W. Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Balaban & Katz Corp., Shubert Brothers Theater Company

Firms: Burling & Adler

Previous Names: New Chicago, Grand Opera House, Cristy's Opera House, Music Hall, Olympic Theatre

Nearby Theaters

January 1945, Apollo Theatre in the background. Photo courtesy of Greg Russell via Forgotten Chicago FB page.

The New Chicago Theatre was opened in 1873 by actor-turned-producer James H. McVicker (whose self-named theatre opened almost 20 years earlier) on the site of the mid-19th century Kingsbury Hall, which had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 1871. The theatre was located on the corner of W. Randolph Street and N. Clark Street and seated over 1,500. The New Chicago was subsequently renamed the Grand Opera House, Cristy’s Opera House, and later, the Music Hall. In 1893, the Music Hall was remodeled and renamed the Olympic Theatre.

Its next-door neighbor was the Adler & Sullivan jewel, the Schiller (later Garrick) Theatre, and the Woods Theatre sat adjacent to the Garrick Theatre at W. Randolph Street and N. Dearborn Street. Just across from the street from the Olympic Theatre on N. Clark Street was the huge Hotel Sherman. Sadly, none of these buildings survives today.

A blaze in 1907 caused extensive damage to the Olympic Theatre, but it was soon afterward rebuilt and reopened, operated by the Shubert Brothers Theatre Company, and specializing in musical comedies. In the 1927, after the legitimate Apollo Theatre (1921) at N. Dearborn Street and W. Randolph Street was converted into the United Artists movie house, the Olympic Theatre took the Apollo name as Shubert’s Apollo Theatre.

Among the many stars to play the Apollo’s stage was Mae West, whose “Diamond Lil” was a major hit, and played there for nearly a half year during the first half of 1929, before moving to the Great Northern Hippodrome Theatre.

Surviving as a legitimate house (as well as a venue for opera, vaudeville and even minstrel shows) until August 22, 1934, when the Apollo Theatre was acquired by the always-expanding Balaban and Katz movie theater chain, and remained a movie house until closing in May of 1949.

After the Apollo Theatre closed, it was razed and replaced by a Greyhound bus terminal in 1953, which was in turn demolished in 1990 and replaced by the Chicago Title & Trust Building, which opened on the site in 1992.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 7, 2010 at 4:17 am

A 1999 book, “History of the Development of Building Construction in Chicago” by Frank Alfred Randall and John D. Randall says that the New Chicago Theatre was designed by the firm of Burling & Adler.

Broan on August 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

Burling & Adler was Dankmar Adler’s firm before teaming with Louis Sullivan. Adler & Sullivan’s Schiller (Garrick) Theatre was adjacent to the Apollo, and the Borden Block, Adler & Sullivan’s first commission, was adjacent to the Schiller.

Broan on February 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

http://tribune-files.imagefortress.com/attachment1s/209313/medium_wm/AEI-090-CT_F.JPG?1276085002 This appears to be the Apollo in 1929.

DavidZornig on October 8, 2015 at 9:54 am

1941 photo added. Looking East on Randolph. Apollo marquee on the left, photo courtesy of Tim O'Neill.

Broan on January 17, 2016 at 1:42 pm

Here and Here are THSA pictures of the Apollo

DavidZornig on February 28, 2020 at 6:48 am

1922 photo added courtesy Chicago History Museum. Olympic Theatre marquee and signage shown.

DavidZornig on July 13, 2020 at 11:48 am

December 17, 1922 program for “Shuffle Along”, seen on the marquee in the above mentioned photo.


rivest266 on August 13, 2020 at 10:47 am

Reopened by Balaban & Katz on August 22nd, 1934. Grand opening ad posted.

Broan on April 3, 2022 at 7:20 am

https://chicagology.com/rebuilding/rebuilding138/ - more history here.

The 1908 rebuilding was an early work by Rapp & Rapp, though it was rebuilt/redecorated many times before and after. https://archive.org/details/sim_billboard_1908-11-21_20_47/page/17/mode/1up?view=theater

Broan on April 3, 2022 at 7:23 am

Notably both the buildings housing its lobbies on Clark and Randolph were rebuilt or heavily remodeled several times.

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