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 Remembers: The Olympic Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

Once again as the sun has set upon our little town of Haddonfield, I find myself able overcome my distaste for Carl’s technology, this laptop however for the time being gives me far more ability to make my words and the overwhelming emotions I hold for hallowed places like my Haunted Drive-In known to the world at large!

Mind you not all Drive-In’s and Movie Palaces have been put to the torch like mine…but so many of the Haunted Drive-In’s cinematic brothers and sisters have felt the ravages of the March of Time. Like the Olympic Theatre…

(Photo courtesy of John Rice and Cinema Treasures – Carl)

The Olympic Theatre at 313 W. Eighth Street in Los Angeles, CA, opened in 1927 as the Bard’s Eight Street Theatre. Lewis A. Smith was the architect, taking what was a restaurant at the time and remodeling it to be the last in Lou Bard’s theatre chain, it was said to have been decorated in Chinese decor and held 600 seats. The first feature to beam on it’s screen was Universal’s “Oh, Baby”, a comedy starring Creighton Hale and Madge Kennedy.

In the year of 1932 the Bard’s Theatre was rechristened, she became the Olympic Theatre to commemorate the hosting of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Architect Charles O. Matcham, gave the Olympic yet another remodeling in 1942.

The Olympic’s claim to fame goes beyond entertaining her audiences for over 59 years, she was featured in the 1971 film, The Omega Man. It was the theatre that Neville, played by Charlton Heston took refuge within to watch Woodstock and try to escape his loneliness.

The Olympic Theatre closed its doors in the Summer of 1986, it like the Ramova Theatre, ended it’s years as a Spanish language house after being bought out by Metropolitan Theatres. It was said that she had been closed to strengthen the walls to stand up to earthquake shocks but never reopened as a movie house. In the year 2004, the facade and marquee had been worked on but the interior was being used as storage. 2007 found the Olympic being transformed into a business shop for French Rococo furniture and chandeliers.

(Photo courtesy of Ron P. and Cinema Treasures – Carl)

I see it is time to change the first reel, I’ve found that a projectionist must always preview the films being shown to ensure there are no defects in the quality of the feature. Doubly so with this vast vault of films I was able to save from the fire.

Perhaps in the future you will be able to come visit me in the Haunted Drive-In? Just remember to wait until after dark…