The Biograph Theater

biograph theater

I secretly wish I lived during the gangster era of Chicago. Old movies, fancy clothes, elaborate outings with live shows, and a little gangster drama never hurt anyone. Ok, that’s not true. But I mean besides the whole prohibition thing (which really just equates to my under-21 life in Chicago) it sounds pretty sweet. A fan of old movies and even older theaters, I think I would have frequented the Biograph Theater, designated a Chicago landmark in 2001 and on the National Register of Historic Places. The old theater, designed in 1914 by Samuel N. Crowen, has a large canopy marquee and an old ticket booth, making theater-goers think of another time.

The theater is most famous as the site of the shooting of bank robber John Dillinger by the FBI in 1934. On July 22, 1933, the FBI led by Melvin Purvis, finally tracked down Dillinger as he attended Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph Theater with brothel owner Ana Cumpanas. Many say Dillinger still haunts the theater, or that he wasn’t the one actually killed in front of the marquee and it was a set-up, but either way the theater remains prominent in Chicago history.

In 2004, after 90 years as a movie theater, Chicago Victory Gardens Theater purchased the space to transform it to host live performance. The theater was completely renovated and in 2006 became the Victory Gardens at the Biograph. The theater company rebuilt the grand staircase and the venue now seats 299 people.

For more information on the Victory Gardens at the Biograph, visit


Tessa McLean

About Tessa McLean

There is just something about that feeling when you have been away — maybe for a weekend, a month, 6 months — and you’re driving into Chicago and that first glimpse of the city skyline appears. It just always makes me smile.

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