CIBC Theater (also known as the Majestic and Shubert Theatre)
The CIBC Theatre opened in 1906 under the name Majestic Theatre as Chicago's first $1 million venue and home to legendary vaudeville acts. The CIBC currently seats 1,800 and routinely presents Broadway shows, notably since a substantial renovation in 2006; its most recent claim to fame involves producing the smash hit, "Hamilton." The Majestic name comes from the twenty-one floor skyscraper for which it resides. When the building opened in 1905, it stood as the city's tallest building. Today, the CIBC and the Hampton Inn Majestic Hotel occupy the tower. Over the years, the theater has operated under several names such as the PrivateBank Theatre, Bank of America Theatre, LaSalle Bank Theatre, and, from 1945 - 2005, the Sam Shubert Theatre.
Backstory and Context
Vaudeville dominated the entertainment world from the 1880s until just before World War I. In 1882, C. E. Kohl and George Middleton opened the first acknowledged vaudeville entertainment in Chicago on the city's west side, followed by opening another location in 1883 and again in 1884. The vaudeville shows' profound success allowed the pair to lease much larger venues such as the Chicago Opera House and Haymarket. In 1900, Kohl bought out Middleton's leases and later with George Castle acquired the Academy of Music and two well-known theaters. Additionally, Kohl and Castle built the Majestic (now known as CIBC), which opened in 1906.
The Majestic took its name for the twenty-one-story Majestic Building for which it resided. The building, when it opened, stood as the city's tallest building. Meanwhile, the auditorium's design proved more lavish than its counterparts, as the owners intended to draw more elegant audiences to vaudeville. In fact, the Majestic, with its detailed architecture, marble floors, decorative tapestries, and amenities, served as the city's first venue to cost more than $1 million.
The Majestic existed among four major vaudeville theaters in Chicago and helped the city become of the nation's most prominent sources of vaudeville entertainment, trailing only New York. Headliners at the Majestic included Al Jolson, Jack Benny, W.C. Fields, and Harry Houdini. By the 1920s, though, venues like the Chicago theater offered both movies and live entertainment for the same price as the vaudeville-only shows, which spelled the end for vaudeville. By the end of the 1920s, Hollywood ostensibly killed pure vaudeville, but Broadway and live theater survived; between 1927 and 1928, 264 Broadway productions opened in New York and traveled to places like Chicago and San Fransisco.
The Majestic withstood the erosion of vaudeville, but not the Great Depression, which forced its closure for thirteen years. The theater closed in 1932 and did not open again until 1945 when the Shubert Organization purchased and remodeled the theater and reopened it as the Sam Shubert Theatre, or "The Shubert," a name that endured until 2005. Patrons of the late 1940s viewed popular productions, including Carousel, South Pacific, and Guys and Dolls. More recently, the theater benefited from an extensive renovation in 2005-2006. The theater started productions in 2006 as the LaSalle Bank Theatre, which coincided with floors 4-21 of the adjoining (Majestic) office building opening as the Hampton Inn Majestic Hotel. The hotel and theatre now share the facility, with the theatre operating (under the name CIBC) on floors 1-6 and the hotel on floors 4-21. Recent productions include Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Camelot, Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, and Chicago.
"CIBC Theatre: 18 W. Monroe Street, Chicago, IL 60603." Cinema Treasures. cinematreastures.org. Accessed August 5, 2020. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/2179
Gomery, Douglass. "Vaudeville." Chicago Historical Society Digitial Encyclopedia of Chicago. chicagohistory.org. Accessed August 5, 2020. http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1299.html
Gregory, Terry. "The Majestic Theater." Chicagology. chicagology.com. Accessed August 5, 2020. https://chicagology.com/skyscrapers/skyscrapers064/
Schiecke, Konrad. Downtown Chicago's Historic Movie Theatres. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012.
Wenzel, Ryan. "Majestic Makeover." The Daily Northwestern (Evanston, IL) October 26th 2005. https://dailynorthwestern.com/2005/10/26/archive-manual/majestic-makeover/
By Goldnpuppy - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70635836
1910 photo via Bebe Belman via http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/2179
Chicago Sunday Tribune, November 11, 1906 via https://chicagology.com/skyscrapers/skyscrapers064/
1966 photo courtesy of Dennis Madia via http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/2179
By Kimberlyhobart at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20395113