Balaban and Katz
The first incarnation of the Balaban and Katz Theatre corporation appeared in 1916 in Chicago by A. J. Balaban, Barney Balaban, Sam Katz, and Morris Katz. It held its first meeting as a Delaware corporation on January 21, 1925. Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, forerunner of Paramount Pictures, bought a controlling interest in Balaban and Katz Corporation in 1926. It became a part of United Paramount Theatres in 1948 after Paramount was forced to sell off its theaters. In turn, UPT merged with American Broadcasting Company in 1953. The company was officially dissolved as an Illinois corporation on July 31, 1970.
Balaban and Katz chose to build their theaters—many designed by famous architects Rapp and Rapp—in rapidly growing outlying districts, convenient for the middle class population which provided the bulk of their patrons, as well as downtown Chicago. The company is notable for being the first to offer air conditioning in its theaters and for including lavish stage shows. Balaban and Katz operated over a hundred theaters in the mid western United States. There were more than 50 Chicago-area theaters operated by the Balaban and Katz company including:
West: Central Park, Iris, Manor, Marbro, Paradise, Senate, and State.
Suburban Chicago: Berwyn, Coronet, La Grange, Park, Valencia, and Varsity.
Sam Katz, a vice president at Balaban and Katz, became president of The Publix theaters group, a division of Famous Players Lasky. Its secretary, Barney Balaban, eventually became president of Paramount Pictures. Beginning in 1939, Balaban and Katz, along with parent company Paramount, was involved in the development of television broadcasting. The company owned several experimental television licenses, and in 1943 began broadcasting over WBKB (now WBBM-TV), the first commercial television station in Chicago.
Whenever Balaban and Katz decided that murals would become part of the interior design scheme, they would commission painter and muralist Louis Grell of Chicago to execute them. Louis Grell painted murals inside the Chicago Theater, Gateway Theater, Uptown Theater and many Paramount Theaters across the midwest and America for Balaban and Katz.
Today, the trademark for the company is owned by a historical foundation called the Balaban and Katz Historical Foundation. The foundation was founded by descendants of the original Balaban brothers. Its collection of B and K corporate documents is located in New Jersey. Theatre Historical Society, in Elmhurst, Illinois, maintains an extensive collection of architectural blue prints and large format pictures of many Balaban and Katz theaters. In 2006, a documentary, Uptown: Portrait of a Palace, featured one of Balaban and Katz's most famous theaters, the Uptown. 2006 also saw the publication of a book on many of the B&K theatres, titled The Chicago Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz, written by David Balaban with a foreword by theater historian Joseph DuciBella and published by Arcadia Publishing.
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- Balaban, David. The Chicago Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz, Arcadia Publishing, 2006.
- "Historic Theatres & Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz". CompassRose.org. Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
- Klingsporn, Geoffrey (2005). "Balaban & Katz". The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago (Chicago Historical Society). Retrieved October 31, 2012.