BALABAN, BARNEY (1887–1971), U.S. motion picture executive. Balaban was born in Chicago and worked at the age of 12 as a messenger for Western Union. In 1908, along with partner Sam Katz, he formed a company that developed a chain of deluxe movie and stage-show theater palaces. In 1917 they built what historians consider the city's first movie palace, the Central Park on West Roosevelt Road. Referred to as a "dream theater," it had a seating capacity of 2,200. It was here that they began working out the service system which soon spread to all quarters of the theater world. They outfitted their ushers in military-style uniforms, had them salute the theater patrons, and trained them to give quick, intelligent service. At its peak, their cinema chain included 125 theaters in Chicago and the Midwest, such as the Riviera, the Tivoli, the Chicago, the Uptown, the McVickers, the Roosevelt, and the Norshore. The company introduced raked floors, comfortable seats, balconies, and air-conditioning. To keep patrons entertained, Balaban and Katz supplemented the theater's first-run motion pictures with lavish stage shows, a policy that would become standard at Chicago movie palaces during the 1920s. In 1926 they opened the Palace Theatre. Modeled after Versailles, the Palace had rose-marbled walls, crystal chandeliers, gold plaster ornamentation, and immense mirrors. That year they also opened the Oriental Theatre in Chicago's Loop area. A virtual museum of Asian art, the ornate three-level theater had a large domed ceiling graced by seahorses and goddesses. Turbaned ushers led patrons from the lobby – with polychrome figures and large mosaics of an Indian prince and princess – through an inner foyer with elephant-throne chairs and multicolored glazed Buddhas, to the auditorium's "hashish-dream décor." In 1928 Balaban and Katz opened the Paradise on Chicago's West Side. Throughout their career the partners had been haunted by sentimental memories of the West Side, where they were born and raised and had first overcome poverty. Wanting to give their home turf the finest theater of all, they built the Paradise in the center of the city's population. Larger than any other theater outside of New York City, more daring and original in its architecture than any theater in the world at that time, their opulent 3,600-seat French Renaissance-style Paradise embodied the farthest reaches of their imagination. Ultimately, Paramount Pictures bought a two-thirds interest in their cinema chain, and in 1936 Balaban was elected president of Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. Under his guidance, Paramount invested in television and pioneered the wide screen. Balaban was active in Jewish affairs. Over the decades, many of the movie palaces fell into disrepair. The Paradise, for example, billed as "the world's most beautiful theater," was demolished in 1965. With the advent of talking pictures, fatal flaws in the acoustics and design of the building were exposed, so Balaban and Katz decided to demolish the theater and sell the land to a supermarket chain. Built to last forever, it took two years to tear it down. In 1996 Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced that the Oriental would be restored to its original grandeur for the presentation of live stage musicals. Renamed the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in 1997, the theater opened its doors to the public in 1998. Similarly, the Palace was purchased by General Motors and, renamed the Cadillac Palace Theater, opened in 1999 to present live stage productions. (Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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  • Balaban, Barney — (1887 1983)    American motion picture executive. Born in Chicago, he founded the Balaban and Katz company in 1908. In 1926 the company was bought by Paramount Pictures, and he and his brother remained as managers. In 1936 he was elected… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Barney Balaban — (June 8, 1887 March 7,1971), was president of Paramount Pictures from 1936 to 1964, and innovator in the cinema industry. The eldest of the seven sons of grocery store owner Israel Balaban, Barney worked as a messenger boy and a cold storage… …   Wikipedia

  • Balaban and Katz — The first incarnation of the Balaban and Katz Theatre corporation appeared in 1916 in Chicago by A.J. Balaban, Barney Balaban, Sam Katz, and Morris Katz. It held its first meeting as a Delaware corporation on January 21, 1925. The company was… …   Wikipedia

  • Barney Balaban — Barney Balaban, né le 8 juin 1887 à Chicago et mort le 7 mars 1971, est un des présidents de Paramount Pictures. Il reste à ce poste de 1936 à 1964. Il est un pionnier dans l industrie du cinéma[1]. Il est l oncle de Bob… …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Bob Balaban — Infobox actor caption = birthname = Robert Elmer Balaban birthdate = Birth date and age|1945|8|16|mf=y birthplace = Chicago, Illinois occupation = Film, television actor baftaawards = Best Film 2001 Gosford Park sagawards = Outstanding Cast in a… …   Wikipedia

  • Burt Balaban — est un réalisateur et producteur américain, né le 6 mars 1922 à Chicago et mort le 14 octobre 1965. Il est le fils de Barney Balaban, président de Paramount Pictures de 1936 à 1964. Sommaire 1 Filmographie 1.1 comme… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Paramount Pictures — Corporation Тип …   Википедия

  • Paramount Pictures — Infobox Company company name = Paramount Pictures Corporation company company type = Subsidiary parent = Paramount Motion Pictures Group owner = Gulf+Western (1966 1989) Paramount Communications (1989 1994) Old Viacom (now CBS Corporation) (1994… …   Wikipedia

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