Marbro Theater, Chicago, IL.
One of my personal favorites , the Marbro Theater opened in 1929 for the Marks Brothers chain on Madison Avenue on the West Side of Chicago. It was originally going to be called “Paradise” but the name was taken by the theater that went up on Pulaski Avenue (see an earlier blog entry for the Paradise Theater), hence an acronym of Marks Brothers–“Marbro” became the new house’s name.
I think this is the most fabulous exterior of any theatre. Interior wise, it resembled Chicago’s Granada Theater–both houses were designed by the Levy & Klein firm. It reminds me of a giant lace terra cotta wedding cake crossed with a castle’s cupola and finial. You can also see in this photo, just at the very edge of the roof are series of lantern-like projections. To top it all off, dig the huge vertical sign with bandleader Benny Meroff’s name.
Of course, with the Paradise and the Marbro so close to each other, that created an “over-seating” problem with more than 10,000 seats for the two theaters combined. There was no way to fill both on a regular basis and when the Balaban & Katz chain took over both houses, one of them had to go. The Marbro was deemed to be superior acoustically, so the Paradise became the ugly stepchild and was often closed.
The Marbro made it through World War 2, but in the 1950’s, the neighborhood began to change. There were problems with gangs and the nearby Crawford St. shopping district became a ghost town as West siders refused to make a trip in to see a show. They could be entertained for free with their TV’s. The Paradise was pounded into dust in 1956. The Marbro followed it into oblivion 2 years later. It was a sad end to a beautiful theater.