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.

‘Tis The Season…For The Drive-In!

It brings this wrecked and tortured soul of mine no small amount of joy to be home once again. I look forward to this Season of entertainment that I’ve…dug up…for you. Heh, heh.

Carl tells me that you have requested a segment known as ‘Viewers Mail’ to henceforth be added to our broadcasts. So please if you have questions about the Drive-In or myself…or perhaps my storied background in the vast entertainment industry you love and cherish…leave your missives on this ‘Site’ or contact me directly and I will answer them if I am able.

The Projectionist’s Haunted-Drive In Presents: The Most Dangerous Game

Salutations and welcome to the first Haunted Drive-In television program (I’ve told him a hundred times that this is a web based “TV series” – Carl), using stock film kept in the basement of the former Starlight Starbright Family Fun Drive-In, leftovers from my earlier cinematic endeavors. Heh.

Whisked away from the townsfolk’s flames and stupidity to safety by myself at no small amount of personal loss. Thanks to the projection booth collapsing during the fire, by luck or maybe it was the guiding hand of fate…most of the hundreds of films cans were protected from the worst of the heat. Allowing myself the necessary time to securely hide them (Odd that a film distributor’s warehouse in our town was broken into and hundreds of movies reported stolen at the same time! – Carl) and myself from prying eyes.

Now it is time for the Haunted Drive-In to spread her wings like the phoenix! I hope you are comfortable and have a giant bag of popcorn and some piping hot coffee in your hands as the feature is beamed across the airwaves to the television sets (Whatever. Let him have his dreams. – Carl) in your living room.

I will let Carl do what he must with his computers to make sure you are getting our signal. It is with great pride and no small amount of satisfaction that I present to you from the Haunted Drive-In, the famous RKO’s movie studio production of The Most Dangerous Game.

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…

Salutations From The Projectionist

It is with no small amount of hesitation that I type this on Carl’s “computer”, what we in the Golden Age of cinema thought was a fanciful concoction from the talented minds of George Pal, Robert Wise, Fred M. Wilcox, and Joseph M. Newman has come to pass.

I want to thank the Retroist for agreeing to let my history lessons appear in print. Many theaters and their “cousins” the Drive-In, veritable palaces of cinematic import in history have fallen to the wayside, lost to the average citizen who might pass a now decrepit and mouldering movie house on a daily basis, not for one moment to ponder the majesty it once exuded from days gone by.

Case in point, the Ramova Theatre in Chicago, IL that had her birth in 1929 on Halstead Street at 35th Street. The architect of the Ramova, Meyer O. Nathan, designed the interior of the theatre to resemble that of Spanish-courtyards and possessed a deep blue ceiling with stars that would glitter before the feature began. The sidewalls contained archways that revealed “scenes” of the Spanish countryside.

For more photos of the Ramova visit Matt Lambros Photography

The Ramova’s crowing glory came in the year 1940, when Charlie Chaplin held the Chicago premiere for “The Great Dictator”. The Ramova earned this honor when the Loop movie palaces management refused to host the event as they were put off by the subject matter of Chaplin’s film.

In 1950 the offerings for the first run features of Hollywood dried up and the Ramova made do with second-run films, finally showing Spanish-language films upon the shuttering of its doors in the middle of the 1980’s. Though with Carl’s aid I have learned that all is not lost for the Ramova, perhaps there still lies future glories for her, on the Facebooking site you may find a group dedicated to the saving of her, Ramova Theatre.

I look forward to bringing you more information in the coming weeks as well as a special project that Carl and I have been working on. If you ever find yourself in Haddonfield I hope you will perhaps wait until dark and come by the old Starlight Starbright Drive-In, or as the kids today refer to it, the Haunted Drive-In, and introduce yourself.

(Photos courtesy of the Ramova Theatre Facebook Page and Cinema Treasures. – Carl)