Thursday, August 28, 2008

News-Star: "The Gray Old Lady Is Ready"

(Detail photo of the Uptown's interior provided courtesy of Friends of the Uptown. Click on it for a larger verson to get the full effect.)

Is a makeover for the Uptown Theatre waiting in the wings?


For decades, the Uptown Theatre's loudest champions have watched a succession of owners mishandle the once "palace of enchantment" as if it were a shabby clown painting on velvet. They remember the bad times, when sheens of ice covered the winding staircases in the Grand Lobby, of burst water pipes and investors that raised their hopes for building's restoration, only to walk away broke and defeated.

Since the announced sale of the Uptown Theatre to Jerry Mickelson of Jam Productions, the Uptown's champions are cautiously optimistic that the architectural landmark will finally get the makeover they've been waiting and fighting for. Mickelson's limited liability company, UTAII, purchased the theater in a court auction for $3.2 million last month. (Read the rest of the article here.)

And don't forget the News-Star's wonderful editorial on the subject:

'Not for today, but for all time': Relight the Uptown Theatre

By the time movie theater moguls, A.W. and Barney Balaban, and their brother-in-law, Sam Katz, opened the doors to their "palace of enchantment" on Aug. 18, 1925, Uptown, as well as the rest of Chicago, were in frenzy.

Upon the presentation of the theater's presentation to the Central Uptown District, one of the magnificent building's architects, George Rapp, declared, "Not for today, but for all time." No doubt many of us, impressed by our parents' and grandparents' tales of its lavish stage shows, or who attended a Jam concert there in our hazy youth, were impressed by the massive Grand Lobby's crystal chandeliers, the gilded d├ęcor and "room bosses" whose faces watched us from above as we moved around the mezzanine.


  1. Well, for all the City haters, you have no idea how hard this case has been. Alot of City employees busted thier butss for years to get to this point.

    Great article, GO UNTOWN THEATRE! The only thing that disturbs me is this sentance' ""One of the goals of the TIF was to do the Uptown Theatre," said Doug Fraser, Smith's chief of staff. "Our office will talk to Ald. (Helen) Shiller's office to figure out what gets spent where. No one moves ahead without a formal conversation. It hasn't been an issue with us." I am sure you all no why.

  2. Sorry about the type-o's, I am in a hurry.

  3. Lorraine Swanson is Uptown's champion. She been there when the other so-called "Jounalists" turned their backs and yawned. Everyone needs to subscribe to "News-Star!

  4. As far as Im concerned, Lorraine's article simply rehashes all the information that's been repeatedly republished ad infinitum about the Uptown and its eternally hoped for renovation.

    The Judy and Mickey "Let's Put on a Show!" types of the world can get all starry eyed about the theater's return, but the money required to make the place right ($40 million!) means they're going to waiting a long time--at least five years, at best--for the elaborate, over-the-top Busby Berkeley finale.

    In the meantime, JAM productions doesnt have to worry about competitors to its shows at the Riv and Aragon--the real reason Jerry Mickelson swooped down and bought this dump of a property.

  5. He will only rehab it if he can get a huge 100 years free property tax, low interest loans and TIF money.

    And to get that he will threaten tearing it down because he can't afford it re do it with out the help.

    If it was a good deal Live Nation would have bought it.

    It's business and in business you don't fall in love with buildings or anything that can't love you back!

  6. Billyjoe, no one but Lorraine showed up at housing court for the Uptown, and no one in the city has given the theatre the in-depth coverage the News-Star has.

    Several urban planners have said that the Uptown Theatre's restoration is vital to Uptown's resurgence.

    Funny how everyone's so freaked out about $40 million in restorations costs, but we've already put $52 million into Wilson Yard, with its mega-price crap-construction rental housing, and the city calming forks over more, more, more to that money pit which no one but Shiller seems to think will ever be built.

    I'd so much rather my tax money went to the Uptown Theatre. Instead, I'm supporting a crazy woman's socialist swan song.

  7. There's a rumor floating around that Oprah Winfrey has an interest in restoring the Uptown Theatre.

    When I heard it the first time I giggled. Then I heard it several more times from some good sources.

  8. Oprah interested in the Uptown Theater!
    That could be a good thing.....but if she has Shiller on her show, I'm throwing my TV out the window.

    Ooops.....the Uptown is out of Shiller's range.

    Now if only we could get Oprah to be interested in Shiller's WY slum-to-be.

  9. That would be great maybe she could do her shows from there.

    She could afford to restore it.

    Won't be a bad addition to her empire.

  10. Honestly, there have been rumors about Oprah and the Uptown Theatre for over a decade now; they've never amounted to anything.

    But it would be nice if a few wealthy Chicagoans could step up to the plate and help with the restoration. I would have no problem seeing naming rights on the building, such as "The Oprah Winfrey Uptown Theatre."

  11. Richard Dreihaus is a huge supporter of buildings of architectual significance. He recently had restored a downtown mansion to its original splendor. Has anyone ever thought of contacting his foundation?

  12. Driehaus likes things Victorian, cute and usually privately owned. He is a collector and sometimes a benefactor. Many people have mentioned to the Uptown to him over time -- it just doesn't seem that he is interested in being a part. Not sure why...