The Best Seats at the Chicago Theater

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The Chicago Theater ( sits at 175 N. State Street and, over the course of its long history, has paid host to many famous faces including Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, and more recently Ellen DeGeneres and Prince. The capacity of the theater is approximately 3,600, depending on the event, and the seats are arranged over three levels.


The Chicago Theater was opened on October 26, 1921, by the Balaban and Katz Theater Corporation. It was known as the Wonder Theater of the World due to its lavish design and cost of $4 million to build. The first show was a screening of the "Sign on the Door," starring Norma Talmadge. A 50-piece orchestra also performed, with the famous organist Jesse Crawford playing the 29-rank Wurlitzer organ, which quickly became a symbol of Chicago. For 40 years the theater showcased the top performers of their day; by the 1970s business was slowing down, however, and its continued viability came into question.


The theater's exterior was designed in a classic French-revival baroque style, incorporating a six-story-high replica of the Arc de Triomphe and a grand lobby modeled on the Royal Chapel at Versailles. The auditorium itself is the equivalent of seven stories high, with seating arranged over three levels: main floor, mezzanine and balcony.


In 1979 the Chicago Theater was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places and designated as a Chicago landmark in 1983. As the theater went into decline it was purchased by the Chicago Theater Restoration Association, which spent $9 million restoring the theater to its 1930s appearance, and reopened in 1986 with a performance by Frank Sinatra.

In 2004 the theater was purchased by TheaterDreams Chicago, run by Lawrence J. Wilker and William W. Becker, who were determined to manage the theater as a multi-purpose performance center. In 2007 the theater was sold again, to Madison Square Garden.

Seating Layout

Seating at the theater is a little complicated. On the main floor seats are arranged into sections, e.g., "sec1R" means the section farthest to the right of the auditorium. They are also arranged into rows, each attributed a letter. Rows with double letters, e.g., AA, BB, CC, are located in the front half of the auditorium and therefore nearer the stage, while single letters, e.g.. A, B, C, start halfway back. Seats in the rows are divided into even and odd numbers starting from the center aisle, therefore the first seat to the right of the central aisle is 402, and on the left 401, with the numbers descending in twos in either direction.

The mezzanine level is divided into boxes with between two to 10 seats in each box. The boxes are identified by letter, with "box A" being directly to the right of the stage, and "box N" directly in line with the center. Therefore, if you are unable to get a seat near the center on the main floor, it might be advisable to try for seats in boxes K, L, M, N, O, P or Q, as these have a good head-on view of the stage.

The balcony seats are arranged in much the same way as the main floor, with double letters indicating the rows nearest the front of the balcony. The balcony itself is also divided into the loge, front balcony, middle balcony and rear balcony, with the rear being the highest and farthest set back. Seats in the center of the loge would also be a good choice, as they provide a decent view and are likely to be cheaper than those of the main floor or the mezzanine.

Purchasing Tickets

Tickets for events at the Chicago Theater can be purchased online at, by calling Ticketmaster Chicago, 800-745-3000, at the Chicago Theater box office or at any of the venues owned by Madison Square Garden, including Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theater in New York. Opening times for each of these box offices can be found at the Chicago Theater website. Ticket prices may vary depending on the event, but usually start around $59, as of 2011.