Chicago’s affiliation with the big screen needs no introduction. From its history as a popular filming location to its array of unique movie theaters, the cinematic world is in the city’s blood.
Many of these smaller movie theaters have been around for decades but are becoming more and more outnumbered by megaplexes with state-of-the-art surround sound and screens the size of basketball courts. Which is why it makes us all the more somber when we lose one of the latter.
Unfortunately, the New 400 Theaters in Rogers Park, which held the title of the longest-running theater in Chicago, is the latest historic movie theater in Chicago to bite the dust.
After opening in 1912 as a vaudeville and movie house known as the Regent Theater, the building has lived through wars and two pandemics, even helping out the local neighborhood as a Covid testing center in recent years.
Despite community efforts to prolong its existence, earlier this year the local Loyola Pheonix announced that a lack of customers could force the centenarian building to close.
Taking to social media, the theater confirmed its fate on Friday writing “Farewell Rogers Park. The 400 served the community as a home base for the BLM marches in RP, as a Covid testing center, as a banquet facility for local businesses, charities, and homeless shelters, as a restroom for the farmers market one year, and last but not least, as a 1st run movie theater.”
“We sold over 1 million tickets, not a single one for more than $10,” it continued. “We hosted Jazz bands on the patio and put kids’ names on the marquee for their birthday parties, to make them feel special. We did blood drives and had film festivals. We had morning movies for young mothers with babies, and trivia/game nights, summer camps outings, and so many other programs.”
When the building first opened as the Regent Theater it had one screen and could seat a total of 725 people total. According to the movie theater’s website, in 1930 it was renamed the “400 Theater” due to the fact that at the time “The Four Hundred” was a popular term for the top four hundred people in high society.
It remained the 400 Theater for 65 years until it was split into multiple screens and called “the 400 Twin”, then “Village North Theatre”, and then “Visionary Theatres” before becoming The New 400 Theaters in 2009.
If you’re interested to know more, The Lakefront Historian has a more extensive article on the history of The New 400.
The New 400 Theater finished its social media announcements by encouraging people to visit Lincoln Square’s Davis Theater, stating that it is “the last small 1st run neighborhood theater in Chicago” and those “who still like small neighborhood theaters” should “eat and drink and be merry because its perpetual existence is not guaranteed.”
[Featured image courtesy of the New 400 Theaters]