Over the past weekend, I spotted a former theater organist who used to perform at "The Portage Theater" (originally known as the Portage Park Theater). The theater opened its doors during the silent era and had a sizeable auditorium for a neighborhood house. It was converted into a clumsy multiplex and later restored to its original dimensions. Johnny Depp filmed scenes for the movie "Public Enemies" at the Portage before meeting his fate after being betrayed by "the Lady in Red." The movie used the exterior of "The Biograph Theater" for some establishing shots, but the Portage auditorium was substituted for "The Manhattan Melodrama" viewing. "The Biograph" was converted into a life theater venue some years ago, so it could be used. "The Portage" underwent a similar fate: it was sold to a rock concert promoter for use as musical venue.
The Noir City road shows have boosted the reputation of "The Music Box" which was a neighborhood theater that used to screen second run films after the pictures closed in the Loop. Less well known is the fact that "The Portage" also dabbled in film noir titles. When it reopened to the public after being restored to a full and intact auditorium, a number of years ago, the initial film shown was "Call Northside 777." Later, some public domain titles were shown, but some of the screenings were from DVDs rather than 35mm projectors.
What is remarkable, for me at least, is how many still functioning theaters trace their origins back to a time before "Jolson Sings" was the advertisement for "The Jazz Singer."