Right around the year of 1899, two brothers by the names of George L. Rapp and Cornelius W. Rapp joined forces to create the concept of what we consider today, the Chicago Theatre. Although it was their design, it was built by Abe and Barney Balaban and Sam and Morris Katz, the founders of the Balaban and Katz theatre chain. Located in the Loop area of Chicago, Illinois, the Chicago Theatre was the “largest, most costly and grandest of the super deluxe movie palaces.” Out of all the theatres around the globe, it was awarded most beautiful theatre and is now one of the oldest surviving movie palaces in the nation that was built in Rapp and Rapps signature Neo-Baroque French Revival style. The Chicago Theatre has had a significant impact on Illinois, by providing entertainment and expressing cultural events, since its opening date of October 26, 1921.
Originally, the Chicago Theatre was named “The Balaban and Katz Chicago Theatre”, named after its builders, Abe and Barney Balaban and Sam and Morris Katz. The partnership of Balaban and Katz went on to create forty-two more theatre palaces in Chicago. The city of Chicago is known as one of the best live entertainment cities in Illinois and even United States. Many of the reviews from people who had gone there, give a five out of five rating. You have many advantages there, such as live entertainment while eating and drinking whatever you would like. And that is partly due to the top-notch performances put on night after night at such theatres as the Chicago Theatre.
One of the many reasons the Chicago Theatre is around today, besides its great array of entertainment, is its beautiful architectural design. The Rapp brothers spared no expense in making the grandest palace to date by investing four million dollars to construct the theatre. Although the grand lobby is five stories high, the complete structure stands seven stories tall and fills nearly half of a city block it is adorned with beautiful murals, a grand staircase, crystal chandeliers, and huge 60 ft. by 30 ft. stage with a 54 ft. by 15 ft. orchestra pit. The architecture has bits and pieces reminiscent of other famous places all over the country. Such as, the grand staircase is reminiscent of the Paris Opera House, the outside of the theatre boasts a miniature replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, while the grand lobby was modeled after the Royal Chapel of Versailles, and its most iconic feature is it vertical “CHICAGO” sign which stands nearly six stories high. The theatre is also known for its venue marquee, which in total, was replaced three times, one being sold to the Smithsonian Institution. Another main attractions is its grand Wurlitzer, which could imitate the instruments of the orchestra.
Aside from its astonishing architectural beauty, opening day for the Chicago Theatre was just as grand. On October 26, 1921 , the theatre opened up with the play, The Sign on the Door, starring Nora Felmage. In order to help handle the 3,880 seat capacity theatre it took 125 ushers to welcome their guests who paid a mere .25 cents until two p.m. And .35 cents in the afternoon, and .50 cents for all shows after six p.m. Nowadays, tickets range from $100-$1,000, depending on the show or who you are going to see. Upon its opening, it boasted itself as the “Wonder Theatre of the World.” An exceedingly number of famous entertainers from all over the world perform here causing the theatre to be more heard of and popular than most other palaces. This theatre was the first great movie auditorium in the United States and is still ranked number one theatre in Chicago. Chicago Theatre is a key entertainment destination located in the Loop. All in all, the Chicago Theatre has made a remarkable impact on not just only Illinois but for tourists all around the world. Along with the Chicago Theatre, there are more than 200 other theaters in chicago, such as, Second City, Music Box Theatre, Apollo, Goodman, and the Auditorium Theatre. With such great there houses it is no wonder that chicago is the theatre capital of the United States.
Throughout its first 40 years in operation, the Chicago Theatre hosted all types of entertainment, ranging from picture movies, guest appearances, from whatever celebrity was popular at the time, live entertainment, but one its biggest draws was live Jazz. Their most popular jazz festivity being an event called “Syno Caption Week.” Jazz was so successful here at the theatre for over a decade that it influenced and helped Chicago become known as one of the best jazz cities around. To this day, Chicago is famous for its traditional jazz, blues music, and soul music, all in part due to such great performers as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Nat King Cole who performed at the theatre. Many don’t realize but jazz, due to its distinctive form of blues was greatly responsible for the future creation of rock and roll, proving once again, how the acts and events held at the theatre not only influenced the community but complete sound of, as well.
Throughout its history, The Chicago Theatre underwent a total of three renovations. The first being in 1993 in preparation for Chicago’s second World’s Fair, which was also known as “A Century of Progress.” These upgrades include included 14 new interior murals and updated decor. The next renovation in the 1950’s entailed modernizing its shows. This is when most live acts that were there since the beginning were discontinued. Lastly, it’s the most extensive renovation was done in 1985. This renovation saved the theatre from extinction. At the time, the Chicago Theatre was closed and scheduled for demolition, but it was saved by the Chicago Theatre Restoration Associates and the City of Chicago with a multimillion-dollar transformation. Now owning the theatre is The Square Garden Company.
In conclusion, The Chicago Theatre still plays a considerable impact on Illinois and the people by, providing entertainment and expressing cultural events. George L. Rapp and Cornelius Ward Rapp had went over and beyond the expectations to make the Chicago Theatre come about. It has had a positive impact around the country.