Uptown in the News
December 29, 2006
At a time when most Americans go no farther than their living room for entertainment, settling before big-screen TVs and sophisticated sound systems to watch DVDs, play video games and go online, the glories of old movie palaces are buried deep in the past. For the younger generation, stories about their grandparents enjoying not only a movie, but a singer, a band and dancers for a single price resonate about as much as tales of walking eight miles to school every day.
For all that, the city has been able to maintain its ties to that storied past through the restoration of theaters like the Chicago and Oriental for concerts and plays. Now, the granddaddy of historic movie houses, the Uptown, having somehow avoided being turned into shops or condos during its quarter-century in retirement, is flirting with a comeback. Two big promoters, including Live Nation, which owns the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park and recently bought the House of Blues, reportedly will submit a proposal to acquire the onetime crown jewel of the Balaban & Katz chain and restore it as a venue for live entertainment.
There have been previous schemes to revive the Uptown Theatre, which was declared a landmark in 1991. But under the control of a bankrupt owner who has resisted pressure from city officials to sell it, the building once touted for its ''acre of seats'' has been an acre of unattractive, wasted space. If Live Nation and AEG, which owns the Chicago Fire, succeed in restoring this cultural monument, where legends ranging from Duke Ellington to Bruce Springsteen have performed, it will be a major boost to the community (which, with the Aragon Ballroom and Riviera Theater operating nearby, will want a boost in parking in the area).
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