The Projectionist Remembers: The Clark Theater, Chicago, IL

Oh how the tongues are wagging from the small minded citizens here in Haddonfield. Three times this week I’ve had to instruct Carl to chase away curious teenagers from the Haunted Drive-In! It just wouldn’t do to have prying eyes catch a glimpse of the classic feature I will be showing until the generators are working properly enough to power the projection booth! Heh, heh.

So while I wait for Carl to return with the items on my equipment list I thought I would take a moment to give due respect to another Illinois fallen movie palace, much like it’s Drive-In cousin…my Starlight Starbrite, what some lowbrowed townspeople might consider ‘mere places’ for entertainment deserve to not only be remembered but respected. Honored.


(Photo Courtesy of Btkrefft and Cinema Treasures – Carl)

The Clark Theater began it’s life in 1911 as the Columbia Theater, it was designed by architect J. E. O. Pridmore. It boasted a seating of 1550 seats and found itself 12 years later being remodeled by A. H. Woods and was rechristened the Adelphi Theater. It wasn’t until 1931 that the theater found itself renovated into a movie palace where it was renamed the Clark Theater, due to its proximity to the intersection of Madison and Clark Streets.

In the 1950s it gained an important historical neighbor, the original Blue Note jazz club, where the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington performed.

Carl has helped me hunt down this piece of film from Columbia Pictures 1943 feature, Reveille with Beverly. It features Duke Ellington’s musical number ‘Take the A Train’.

(Video clip courtesy of Morrison Course Vids and YouTube – Carl)

The theater found itself on hard times in the early 70s as the Hollywood features had dried up and it screened only Blue Movies until it’s doors were permanently shuttered in 1974, shortly before it and the entire block of early 19th and 20th century buildings were razed to the ground.

The Projectionist

Lurking in the bowels of the Retroist Vault, the Projectionist comforts himself with the dreams of celluloid glory of days gone by. With his assistant, Daniel XIII, in the quiet time of the night he serves as host in what has been dubbed the Haunted Drive-In. Bringing films to the entertainment starved masses the Haunted Drive-In projector roars to life and shines brightly once again...

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2 thoughts on “The Projectionist Remembers: The Clark Theater, Chicago, IL

  1. vinvectrex says:

    Always great to see some vintage Chicago photographs. I used to work in the vicinity, and had no idea there was ever once a theater there.

  2. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Great image that evokes everything I loved about big city theaters.
    The impressively tall buildings and high levels of indifferent activity, then a small marquee calling you to its peaceful oasis of silver screen repose.

    And like magic, the doors past the ticket booth lead to somewhere more vast (and at the time, regally-decored) than its timid exterior would lead you to believe.

    Yeah, we were living a dream.

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