Historic Uptown Theatre to receive $75-million-dollar renovation

It has been 37 years since the last show at Chicago’s historic Uptown Theatre.

Now, the massive and crumbling movie palace at the corner of Lawrence and Broadway is getting new life.

It was the largest, grandest movie theater in the world when it opened in 1925. But for the past few decades, the Uptown Theatre and its nearly 5000 seats have sat empty -- shuttered and decaying -- until now.

"Our dream to one day reopen the Uptown Theater starts today,” said Alderman James Cappelman.

It's a big challenge. While parts of the theater maintain their grandeur, much of it is in an advanced state of decay.

"When I walked in here in 1975 I fell in love. And it never left me,” said Jerry Mickelson of Jam Productions.

Concert promoter Jerry Mickelson brought Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead and Bob Marley to the Uptown Theatre in the 1970s and 80s.

Now as owner of the building, he's kicking in to the $75-million-dollar renovation, which also includes tax incentives and preservation funds.

"It's the largest theater in the city and we expect the largest acts, most popular acts will be playing here,” Mickelson said.

And with other historic theatres like the Riviera and the Aragon just around the corner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel envisions Uptown as a major entertainment district.

"This is something unique in the United States. We don't have three art deco theaters all within 200 feet of each other,” Mayor Emanuel said.

If all goes as planned, the curtain should rise on the new Uptown Theatre in 2020.

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