August 28, 2008

Uptown Theatre, An Editorial

Editor's Note: Thanks to the News-Star for their lovely editorial, in which both Friends of the Uptown and our own Compass Rose were mentioned.

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

Our Views
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.

But times and entertainment tastes changed, and the Uptown became a victim of its own success and relic of Roaring Twenties-opulence. Except for brief moments when the Uptown was relit for charitable events and even a movie set in the 1990s, the storied theater has stood silent and darkened on the corner of Lawrence and Broadway since 1981.

Thanks to non-profit organizations like the Friends of the Uptown Theatre, Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads and a host of other theater activists, their efforts have helped build community support for preserving the storied theater. But with each passing year that the Uptown has stood vacant and uninhabitable, exuding the human energy of audiences that once settled into its crimson seats, lays the danger of further deterioration and decay that could render it beyond saving.

News of the Uptown's ownership being settled in a court-ordered auction, that comes with a city deadline for its restoration, has brought hope to its thousands of supporters that the building will once again light up the corner of Broadway and Lawrence. More than 3,200 persons have gone on the record for restoring the theater for the 21st century, by signing a petition to renovate the Uptown Theatre, at whatever cost.

Never has there been a more golden opportunity to preserve the Uptown. We support the release of public funds and urge other civic leaders, whose private gifts have enabled Millennium Park, restoration of the Chicago Theatre and the city's other cultural institutions to thrive, to turn their attention from downtown to one of the city's great unfulfilled neighborhoods.

We wish the Uptown's new owners well and pledge our support in preserving the theater "for all time."

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