Movie actor Bob Balaban comes from a show business family famous in both Chicago and nationally. Bob was born in Chicago on Aug. 16, 1945. His father Elmer and four of his six uncles created the Balaban and Katz (B&K) movie theater chain in the 1920s. The chain eventually had about 100 theaters in Chicago and suburbs. The landmark Chicago Theater at 175 N. State Street was the crown jewel of the B&K chain that was built as the first lavish theater palace designed speficially for movies when it opened on Oct. 26, 1921. The famous Uptown Theatre near Broadway and Lawrence was also a landmark B&K Theater in the Depression era. The Balaban family also created Chicago's first commercial television station, WBKB on Channel 4, (Balaban & Katz Broadcasting) in the 1940s.
WBKB later moved to Channel 7 in the 1950s before the Channel 7 call letters changed to match the WLS call letters of the radio station that was once owned by Sears. The radio WLS stood for "World's Largest Store" when owned by Sears. It was part of the NBC Blue Network that later became ABC. The call letters of WBKB were reassigned and a station with those letters still operates on Channel 11 in Alpena, Michigan today.
Bob's uncle by marriage was Sam Katz who was head of production at MGM for many years. His uncle Barney Balaban was the head of Paramount Pictures for 28 years from 1936 to 1964. Bob's first cousin is director Burt Balaban. Bob started working with the resident company at Second City when he was still a student in high school before attending college in New York. He has been seen as a character actor in more than 70 films. He was the French interpreter in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a computer scientist in 2010. Bob had a very loyal following for his various characters in a series of films by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy such as A Mighty Wind (2003). Click here for a list of Bob Balaban films.