Ah, Chicago’s late-lamented Marbro Theatre–the most beautiful exterior of any Golden age movie palace and the header here on this blogsite. Like a Cathedral or an Italianate/Raphaelite palace–like a big frosted multi-tiered wedding cake–or something out of a wonderful dream. While there are theaters with lovelier and more ornate interiors, the Marbro was the epitome of what a movie theater should look like from the outside. I mean–could it be anything else other than a movie theatre? Look at the size of that vertical sign!
Opened in 1927 on the West side for the Marks Brothers, the Marbro (an obvious contraction of “Marks” and “Brothers”) was a grandiose conglomeration of marble, gilded plaster, lavish velvet swags and crystal chandeliers with a grand staircase that led up to the mezzanine level. There were 4,000 seats in the auditorium under a massive golden dome. The accent here was on regal luxury and an overwhelming sense of side and majesty.
The Marbro offered films and stage shows and featured bandleader Benny Meroff as its Master of Ceremonies. The theatre, however, had the misfortune of Balaban and Katz opening their Paradise Theatre just a few blocks away and suddenly the neighborhood had 2 houses of over 4,000 seats. The Marks Brothers went broke and sold their assets, including the Marbro to B&K. When the Paradise proved to be an acoustic problem with the advent of talkies, the Marbro became B&K’s priority and the Paradise went through several temporary closings in its troubled existence.
The neighborhood changed over the decades and when it was no longer financially feasible to keep the Marbro open, B&K closed it in 1963. Sadly, the theatre was demolished, leaving only photos to reveal the majesty that it had once been. A great loss of something wonderful. (sigh).
Photos: The Marbro’s lavish exterior; in it’s evening suit of electric lights; the auditorium; what time ultimately wrought; and demolition.