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This Week in Chicago Entertainment History: Balaban & Katz

If you take a look at the years of 1919-1952 Chicago was known to have the largest theater chain during the studio era. The Balaban’s began their movie theater business in 1908 when they leased the mere 100 seat Kedzie Nickelodeon located of course on Kedzie Avenue.  A.J. and Barney Balaban later teamed up with Sam & Morris Katz thus creating Balaban & Katz.

Their goal was to build movie palaces that offered popular stage shows as well as movies.  You have probably walked by  one of their more popular theaters such as the Oriental, The Chicago Theatre or the Uptown Theater as seen in this documentary trailer below:

These intelligent businessmen really did their homework by placing their theaters in fundamental parts of the city, treating their patrons like royalty, and adding live shows to their movie lineup. These live shows sometimes featured Bob Hope, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman just to name a few.

It’s no surprise that these power house players formed one of the most valuable companies of the studio era and were also affiliated with Paramount studio.  This was one of the important movie companies of Hollywood’s Golden Age and it’s easy to understand how these gentleman greatly influenced the ‘movie palace revolution’ allowing movies and mass entertainment to rise greatly during the twentieth century.

*Special thanks to the Encyclopedia of Chicago & David Balaban


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