Archive ID: 1983-047-10

Gayety Theatre, showing Spanish language movies

Date Created: undated

Donor: The Daily Calumet

Media Type: Photograph

Language: mul

Description:

Gayety Theatre. On marquee: “Hoy Cuco Sanchez en “Guitarras lloren guitarras,” In color, “El caso de una adolescente.”

Backstory:

The Gayety Theatre originally opened in South Chicago as the Hippodrome in 1907. It was designed by Alfred Hamburger and could seat over 850. The Theatre was originally a vaudeville house. The name was changed to the Gayety during the 1920s around the time it began to screen films. The Gayety was located on Commercial Avenue in the bustling retail district of South Chicago next door to the equally-popular Gayety Soda Shop, which was packed with young people before and after shows. Rudolfo Serna described walking to the movie houses in South Chicago, including other theaters like the Commercial or the Avalon: “It was great, cause the whole gang would go. Nickel popcorn and stuff like that. It was, of course, a quarter to get in. Nickel for the popcorn, nickel for the pop. If you had 50 cents, you had enough money to keep going…I remember the [Commercial Theater] had two shows. One was in the early afternoon for the kids. And one was in the evening for the adults. And we’d have to go to the early show, and they would repeat one of the movies. And we always stayed to see the movies again. There was two movies and about 4 or 5 cartoons and newsreels. And I used to go there a lot, anyways, as a kid, because that helped me a lot in learning English too. And I remember we’d stay for that movie again and come out with a giant headache.”

As the population of South Chicago began to shift from having more Eastern Europeans to more Spanish-speakers, the Gayety began screening first-run Spanish-language films as shown in this photograph. A fire gutted the Gayety in May of 1982, and the shell of the theater was razed that October. A McDonald’s currently occupies the site.

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