I live in Chicago where there is currently a resurgence of interest in restoration of old movie theaters. In fact I live within walking distance of two absolute gems, The Portage and the Patio (Which my folks always pronounced “pay-she-oh.” I guess that was the way it was said before the fifties.) The Portage has built its business around events like the Silent Film Society’s film festival and Can’t Stop the Serenity, a Firefly-related event that raises money for charity, as well as screenings of old movies. Currently the building is in danger of being sold to one of those storefront churches, which is a horrible idea for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the Portage is a landmark of the northwest side of the city. Right now there’s a lot of scrambling going on to save it, but apart from showing support for the theater as a theater, there’s not a lot that can be done to save it.
That can’t be said for the Patio. It opened about a year ago after many years of being shuttered. The owner, Demetri Kouvalis, and his father, spent a lot of time and money restoring it to its former glory, and they’ve done a terrific job. The Patio shows second run films for $5 a seat, and has a well-stocked and reasonably priced concession stand. It’s the cornerstone of the Irving-Austin business district. But it’s in danger. Hollywood is switching to the digital format a lot sooner than anyone imagined, and all these little theaters have to switch too, to the tune of $70,000 to $100,000 each for the new equipment.
It’s doable, if you’ve had the time to build your business, but the Patio has only been in business for a year. There are benefit showings of great old films, and I know they’ll happily take donations. But in hope of raising the money, Mr. Kouvalis has begun a Kickstarter campaign. His goal is to raise $50,000 by July 20th. If he doesn’t, if he only gets $49,999 worth of pledges, the whole campaign is a wash and he’ll get nothing. that’s how Kickstarter operates.
With a little over three weeks to go, there are about $30,000 worth of pledges. Word is spreading, and there are some terrific perks for your donations (Mostly of interest to Chicagoans, but still.) But it’s by no means a sure thing. That’s why I’m writing this. I’m hoping both local and non-local friends will donate something to the cause. Look, if you were planning on giving me a Christmas gift this year, and want to donate to the Patio instead, I would be THRILLED.
I’ve already donated and as the deadline gets closer I’m going to give as much more as I can afford because I think it’s that important. Think about what it would mean to have this sort of theater in your community, and consider that the area that is home to both the Patio and the Portage has been depressed and fairly run down for a long time. But just lately we have a museum of veterans’ art and a legitimate theater company moving in almost opposite the Portage, a wonderful coffee house a block down from the Patio, and a number of other businesses gearing up to join the Portage/Old Irving Park community. It’s a very exciting time, and I want to do what I can to help. I hope that you’ll feel moved to do the same.