From the archive... 5,000 Guests See Splendors of New Theater
Balaban & Katz Inaugurate Huge House with Private View.
By H. Campbell-Duncan.
Source: Chicago Evening Post, 18 August 1925, pg. 1-2.
Five thousand guests of Balaban & Katz
filled the new Uptown theatre last night to witness the final dress rehearsal of the inaugural bill
before the doors should be thrown open at noon today to an eager and
enthusiastic throng of movie fans.
As an honored member of an honorable profession—the Press, God
bless it—I was accommodated with an sumptuous, crimson velvet arm
chair in box E, right in the center of the glittering lodge horseshoe, beneath the huge balcony that sweeps in a graceful curve 170
feet from wall to wall of the immense auditorium.
It was a nice seat, roomy and deep and soft, with plenty of room
for the knees. As I lounged in it vivid memories were aroused of the
days when I used to shift uneasily on a kitchen chair, nailed to its
neighbor with a piece of scantling, in a nickelodium. And that wasn't so
very long ago, either.
Gives Place Once-Over.
But before settling down to enjoy the show I made the rounds of the
gilded corredores [sic], passed in and out of the gracious salons and
lofty foyers and generally gave the magnificent new shrine to the silent
drama the professional once-over. At each corner and turn I encountered
crimson uniformed ushers and attendants ready to give me courteous
directions and information. They were everywhere and at a distance
appeared like flaming hibiscus blossoms splashed against the deeper
tones of rich hangings and mural decorations.
Passing thru the main entrance on Broadway into the lofty pillared
foyer was to be thrilled by the orgy of expenditure displayed on every
side. Money seems to have been poured out like water to make the Uptown
theater the last word in cinema palace gorgeousness. The architects, I
am told, refer to the style of the building as "Spanish Mexican
renaissance." I've no doubt they are right.
Passing over an acre or so of oriental rugs with a depth of pile
that gave the effect of walking upon moss, and following the sweeping
curve of the grand staircase to the mezzanine floor, and so up another
wide and gracious flight of broad steps thru a richly decorated hall, I
found myself in one of [the] entrances to the vast balcony. Below me lay
the spacious auditorium while on my right, climbing away up to the
gilded ceiling, rose tier upon tier of seats, any one of which, I was
told, assured perfect vision and hearing.
Up in the lofty roof softly modulated lights played aurora
borealislike over a grandly proportioned dome.
Sees Orchestra Rise.
Returning to Box E, I sank back into my chair just in time to see
the musicians, sixty of them, rise majestically from the depths of the
orchestra pit to the level of the stage, while iridescent beams from a
flood light played over them.
Fewer clothes and some seaweed in their hair and they might have
been Neptune and his entourage rising from the sea.
Then came: "Oh, say! Can you see—?" With every one
standing, followed by Tschaikowsky's "Capriccio Italienne,"
really awfully well played.
The rest of the program followed the halting course of the regular
dress rehearsal, as such it was, with frequent interruptions by the
stage manager. This official, megaphone in hand, popped on and off stage
incessantly like the little bird in a cuckoo clock, with shouted order
to the "flyman" up aloft or the electrician at the vast
switchboard back stage.
All this to the huge delight of the audience.
But the show ran very smoothly nevertheless, and I venture to
predict that today's performances will go thru like magic.
Given Elaborate Bill.
The bill was an elaborate sample of future programs. In addition to
a news reel, a comedy and a feature picture, "The Lady Who Lied,"
with Lewis Stone, Nita Naidi and Virginia Valli, a gorgeous stage
diverstissement. [sic] "Under Spanish Skies," was given with a
great deal of excellent singing and dancing. There was also the Oriole
orchestra from the Edgewater Beach hotel in a series of popular jazz
numbers and several selections on the colossal Wurlitzer with Jesse
Crawford at the console. [sic]
In celebration of the opening of the theater, the Central Uptown
Chicago association is holding the pageant of 1925.
The entire north side, from Montrose to Argyle and from the lake to
Halsted street is decorated with brilliantly colored illumination,
flags, bunting and drapes.
Arrange Special Sales.
Free entertainment on the streets, parades, free band concerts and
numerous other attractions are expected to bring the total of visitors
to the neighborhood to at least 100,000 daily. The opening of the
theater alone, it is estimated, will attract over half that number.
Merchants are decorating their windows and arranging special sales. A
window shoppers' contest with $5,000 in prizes is another attraction.
On four or five important street intersections band stands have
been erected, and near by a free spectacular attraction will be given
Flory, the death diver, who sets fire to his clothes and leaps into
a tank of water from the top of a skyscraper, will perform afternoon and
evening, as will the three Morak sisters, dainty beauties who will swing
high in the air between buildings and sing to the crowds.
Dainty Marie, famous musical comedy and vaudeville "singing
Venus," who retired from the stage to open a gymnasium for
fashionable women on Sheridan road, also will contribute a spectacular
act twice daily.
On Thursday night will be the "Parade of Colors," with
over 200 floats in line, and on Friday night "The Parade of Uptown
Prosperity," with nearly 300 floats in line.