Paradise Theater, Chicago, Illinois.
One of the most beautiful exteriors ever designed for a movie palace, the Paradise was said to have been built “to stand for all time.” It’s interior was a John Eberson “atmospheric” of Italian statutes and coves with stars twinkling overhead and clouds projected across the ceiling. There were even four fiery steeds pulling dawn’s chariot over the top of the proscenium. Look at the marquee and vertical sign. What majesty and power! It must have all been an incredible sight after dark on its opening in 1928..
The Paradise’s architectural majesty turned out to also be its downfall. According to legend, the design of the auditorium failed to deal with acoustical dead spots and when talkies supplanted silent pictures, audiences preferred to go to other theaters where they could actually “hear” the movies. The Paradise was never a financial success, was closed for most of WWII, and was more or less a financial albatross around the necks of the Balaban & Katz chain. It was the first theater to go in the long litany of destruction during the 50’s and 60’s. When a supermarket chain made a bid on the land underneath the theatre, the Paradise was bulldozed, but it had been built so well that demolition took two years instead of the six months allotted.
Paradise lost indeed. But it was inspiration for Styx’s “Paradise Theatre” album back in 1982. The inside jacket of the LP has a brief blurb describing the completion of the theatre’s demolition. Not a big fan of the band, but “Rockin’ the Paradise” gives me a good vibe whenever I hear it.