WGN: A behind-the-scenes look at the 100-year-old Davis Theater in Lincoln Square

“For over 100 years, the Davis Theater has entertained Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. Originally opened in 1918 as the Pershing Theater, it was originally named after World War I General of the Armies, John J Pershing.

“The building was designed by architect Walter W. Ahlschlager, who was also responsible for the design of such famous buildings as the uptown Broadway Building in Chicago and the Roxy Theater in New York City.

“The Pershing began its run showing silent films and by the 1930s, it was converted to show ‘talkies’ and renamed the Davis Theater. The theater eventually transformed into a German film house and continued to show foreign films through the end of the 1950s.

“By the 1970s, the theater transitioned to showing a variety of entertainment including puppet shows, second-run films, and revivals. The theater struggled to find a balance to remain profitable and relevant as the Lincoln Square neighborhood experienced the early signs of redevelopment and was planned for demolition in 1999.

“With a negative response from the community, the planned demolition was scrapped and in 2002 real estate developer Tom Fencl purchased the building with a vision to preserve its history as the center of the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

“In 2016, the theater was closed for renovation and brought back to its current state as a historical landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now equipped with its own gastropub, Carbon Arc Bar anchors the reputation of the Davis as a cornerstone for entertainment. It is the only remaining theater of five built in Lincoln Square and one of few operating neighborhood movie theaters in Chicago. (Barnas, WGN Chicago, 5/3/22)

Watch the behind-the-scenes tour at WGN Chicago

Behind-the-scenes tour of historic 100-year theater in Lincoln Square, Tom Barnas, WGN Chicago, 5/3/22

Davis Theater, Cinematreasures.org


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