To the editors:
I would like to debate your Mr. Lazare on the comments he made concerning the pros and cons on the Uptown Theatre and the reasons he says that it can't/shouldn't be done [Culture Club, October 18]. While I myself do not claim to be an expert on the feasibility of restoring one of our last movie palaces in the city, I am not as easily swayed by the nervousness of the competition as Mr. Lazare is.
First of all, the Uptown Theatre is not and has never been an "abandoned" anything. Unless you consider the time Plitt Theaters, Inc., sold the building to a group of Spanish businessmen in the late 70s only to have them skip town and revert the ownership to Plitt again. Also, a theater or any building for that matter would never be allowed to be used in shooting a movie such as the film Backdraft last year without the city fathers (not to mention the cops) looking just a bit curious. That is IF it was abandoned.
On a more important level, Mr. Lazare should definitely have talked to a few more positive people on this long awaited project than the proverbial naysayers in the guise of the competition. Of course, who would want a more desirable theater in Chicago! If you are going to be stuck with a less desirable venue, by all means knock down your opposition! The Uptown for those like Mr. Lazare who have probably never set foot outside River North or Lincoln Park is far superior to the Chicago Theatre and has the potential to bring in acts that because of its larger seating capacity would naturally choose it over the Chicago. As for the neighborhood being what he calls seedy or run-down, well, please explain that to the people who now go to the Riviera, Aragon, and the jazz fans who go to the Green Mill just next door to the theater itself.
The reason that the Chicago Theatre is having so much trouble I feel, is that face it--it has NEVER sold itself to the producers and would-be lessors. In that show business bible, Variety, as well as Billboard has anyone EVER seen an ad for the theater in its yearly auditorium listings?? As far as most producers, there ARE no theaters left downtown in Chicago. Except, of course, the Auditorium. Thanks to Dulcie Gilmore really hustling (and promoting if you please) this landmark is on solid ground. No such person exists at the Chicago. Perhaps it's time they look for someone to really promote it!
As for the other venues cramping the Chicago's bookings, I can't see how. The true "White Elephant" I see that cramps the Chicago is the Arie Crown. A much harder place to get to and a truly ugly barn, once this place converts itself to more convention space, the Chicago can get The Nutcracker for Christmas, and whatever else has the misfortune to book itself there because no one told them that the Chicago Theatre still is around! If it pleases the fat cats who named the Arie Crown, all they have to do is loosen their purse strings a bit and I'm sure the city will rename the Chicago's luxury boxes in Mr. and Mrs. Crown's honor.
From what I can see, the Uptown's future looks very bright, given a good promoter, and the only problem I see with the Chicago outside of a good hard sell is someone getting a little sentimental over the Arie Crown or talk of restoring the Oriental on Randolph Street as another 3,000 seat venue. Now that would make me more concerned if I was them.