Chicago Theatre

See a stage show at this iconic cultural beacon, which still captures all the splendor of a trip to the movie theater in the early 20th century.

Grand movie theaters defined the cultural climate of the U.S. in the early 1900s, and the Chicago Theatre was one of the first buildings of this type. It now hosts live productions rather than film, and the opulence of its early days has been carefully preserved. See a show here to admire a magnificent interior that is an important piece of history.

The theater cost $4 million to build, an enormous amount of money in 1921, when it first opened. The building’s opening was met with a storm of excitement. At the time, it was known as the “Wonder Theatre of the World.” Take a quick look around the building to see why. Stand in the lobby and look up. The decorations of the grand space are inspired by the Royal Chapel at Versailles. See the crystal chandeliers, elegant marble columns and ornate ceiling details that make this open area so impressive. The theater spawned many imitations throughout the country during the first few years after it opened. It is still considered one of the best original palace-style movie theaters.

Step into the 3,600-seat auditorium to see how the grandeur is taken to another level. Its high ceiling means the space is an impressive seven stories tall. Appreciate the incredible detail on the murals above the stage and on the ceiling.

Buy tickets for a show here well in advance, as events are popular and sell out quickly. Modern legends who have appeared on the theater’s stage include Ellen DeGeneres, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, David Letterman, Van Morrison, Arcade Fire and many more.

Whether or not you plan on attending a show at the Chicago Theatre, it is worth a visit just to appreciate its beautiful façade. Special features include an enormous stained-glass window along with an unmissable multi-level fluorescent sign. Find the theater in the downtown area, just south of the Chicago River.