As we have seen through many historic signs, what is fascinating about signage is that it can, like all art, speak on many levels other than just the tangible. We see a sign, one bright and flashing, a Neon Sign, and can draw the conclusion, based on its appearance, that its main purpose is to attract the eye. A design ultimately created to be noticed. And it’s reasonable to conclude that the Chicago Theatre Sign was crafted with this function in mind. It is, after all, just shy of six stories high and a Neon Sign.
However, like so many other signs, this Chicago Theatre Neon Sign tells a tale of inspiration. Known as the “Wonder Theater of the World”, the Chicago Theatre was the “first large, lavish movie palace in America and was the prototype for all others. This beautiful movie palace was constructed for $4 million by theatre owners Barney and Abe Balaban and Sam and Morris Katz and designed by Cornelius and George Rapp. It was the flagship of the Balaban and Katz theatre chain” (History of the Chicago Theatre). It opened on October 26, 1921, with its first showing being the movie “The Sign on the Door” starring Norma Talmdage.
Not only did this Chicago landmark inspire other theaters that were to follow, it is the picture of being inspired. The architecture was modeled after the French Baroque style. The grand lobby was modeled after the Royal Chapel at Versailles, the staircase inspired by the Paris Opera House, and its exterior is meant to remind the view of the Arc de Triomphe. This theater, its sign, and its history articulate the power of incorporating style of the past, and in turn, inspiring those in the future. A sign has the capability to do the same. If a muse can be found in the past, go with it. You never know when your inspiration can create a legacy, and be a motivation for the future.
© Landmark Signs Inc. 2014