The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

It's Not "Show Friends," It's "Show Business"

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 18, 2006 4:45PM

Gaper's Block hipped us to an article in the Sun-Times this morning that says the Esquire Theater’s 2006_07_esquire.jpgdays may be numbered. The owner of the Gold Coast building is exploring the possibilities of tearing it down in favor of retail shops. According to the article, the Esquire hasn’t been making much bank and there are plenty of businesses lining up to offer Viagra Triangle residents yet another place to purchase a $400 change purse.

Normally, this would be the part where we complain about the loss of Chicago history, lament the dearth of small movie houses showing artsy films and protest the triumph of commerce over art. But not this time.

We’ve never been big fans of the Esquire, a theater that always wanted to be all things to all people. While the occasional documentary or art film did screen there, only the most popular films of that genre ever saw the light of the lens. So it’s not as if there weren’t other places to see either those films or the cutesy romantic comedies that lit up its marquee.

Plus, those other places usually offer a better moviegoing experience. The Sun-Times piece mentions how the building has “deteriorated” and any sense of its previous history as a 1930s movie house begins and ends with the aforementioned marquee. The inside is drab, cramped and usually filled with some of the rudest people we’ve ever sat next to in a theater. The Music Box isn’t always the comfiest place to watch a movie either, but its atmosphere more than makes up for any shortcomings of comfort.

We were surprised AMC didn’t close or sell off the Esquire when it was attempting to make nice with the Justice Department due to its merger with Loews, especially since River East always seemed to be cannibalizing the Esquire’s business. Sadly, we’re going to miss the possibilities of the Esquire—and what might have been—much more than the actual theater itself.