The Magical Age of Moving Pictures

The Enterprise (now Taqueria El Ranchito)

By the 1920s, the iconic force of the movie house had become so powerful in the public mind that the brightly lit marquee, touting the latest movie playing in town, became a sure sign that a main street or neighborhood shopping area had “made it”

-Michael Putnam, in Silent Screens

Long before the advent of the household television and the dominance of major motion picture companies, the single screen independent movie house was as common in Avondale as in any other thriving neighborhood. At least ten movie houses, most of them offering a single screen, opened in the neighborhood in the 1910s.

While movie attendance began to decline after 1946 with the dominance of the household television, many other factors influenced the decline of independent cinema. The battle between major movie companies (Paramount, Fox, Warner Brothers, Loew’s) and trade associations of independent theatre operators played out over several decades. In 1948, independent cinema scored a major victory when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the notion that major companies held an illegal monopoly. However, the control of production and distribution and strength of advertising (largely through television) enabled the major forces in cinema to ultimately triumph. By the 1980s, the 1948 consent decrees were virtually abandoned.

Still, traces of small cinema remain in Avondale. Most of the buildings remain standing, though those that do have been completely gutted and repurposed. Following is a summary of known movie houses within the bounds of Avondale.

Cinema Address Current Function Dates in Operation
Linden 3018 Belmont Honey Baked Ham Company 1913-?
Weber/Diversey 3018 Diversey ? 1912-1913
May 3159 Elston ? 1910-?
Elston/Fox 3167 Elston warehouse, mostly gutted and used for storage 1913-?
Enterprise 2829 Milwaukee Taqueria Ranchito 1913-1914+
Avondale 2879 Milwaukee North Chicago Dental Clinic 1910-?
Drake 2905 Milwaukee was Chicago Salvage 1912-1919
Nita/Crescent 2915 Milwaukee May have been demolished (Jazz Age Chicago); may be same building as Carniceria Mejor (Cinema Treasures) 1912-1950s
Round-Up/ Dale/Rose 2858 Milwaukee Demolished a few years ago by Wilcox Company realtors 1914-1950s
Milford 3311 Pulaski Demolished, and now the location of CVS 1917-1990

 

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2 thoughts on “The Magical Age of Moving Pictures

    • Finally, a name for this demolished compelx. I always wondered what the place was called I remember watching the loading docks where tons of cardboard would be delivered and compressed.I must admit, as an architecture student, I have salivated over such a unique and interesting site. However, redevelopment of this site is limited because Chicago Paperboard got their own Planned Manufacturing District in an attempt to keep jobs in the city. So, unless some developer makes a timely contribution to Walter Burnett Jr, this place will eventually be filled with huge featureless box warehouses which provide less jobs than condo buildings would.

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