About this project
For the WHOLE story, scroll down until you see the separator line!
For a better/different look at the Patio Theater, check out the links below of the local newsgroups who visited our theater last year!
Our Campaign calls for $70,000, help us raise at least $50,000 here on Kickstarter!
My name is Demetri Kouvalis and this is my story on how I am trying to help preserve one of the very few historic movie palaces left in Chicago.
Since its grand reopening, the Patio Theater has seen thousands of people grace its lobby and auditorium, watching all the great movies of the year on a big screen in a unique environment that is such a rarity these days. My legacy started in 2011, and I plan on keeping the theater open for as long as possible. However, we are in a time where a dark storm approaches. Hollywood and the movie-going scene is changing drastically. A format of film that has been in existence for over 80 years is becoming extinct. 35mm film reels, the norm for decades, is being replaced by a digital format. Technology has finally caught up to the movie industry and Hollywood sees the benefits of digital, specifically how it would save them close to a billion dollars a year because of its low cost to mass produce prints. Large chains like AMC, Regal, Landmark and many more are embracing the change. And why not? Theaters are now saving millions of dollars by getting rid of projectionists, as unfortunate as that sounds. In this business, Hollywood is the law of the land, and all theaters must abide, even the independents, the theaters that are hit the hardest.
A digital projector can run anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. That is a lot of dough. You might be thinking to yourself, “Wow, even with chains like AMC being so big, how can they afford to upgrade all of their screens? It would cost them millions”, and in a sense you are right. The big factor that you have to take into consideration though, is that these chain megaplexes are buying in bulk, reducing the price per projector, as well as receiving incentives and financial plans for outside parties or the film studios themselves. This is all fine and dandy for the megaplexes, but this system does not work very well for the independent theaters. When you allow outside parties and film studios to help finance your new digital projector, they have their hand in the cookie jar. A lot of an independent theater’s creativity vanishes. Each show you play will be monitored, and more often than not, the film studios will force you to play more shows than you are willing to play, or keep a film for an extra week or two, no matter how bad the film performed. This doesn’t pose a large issue with megaplexes as they keep films in their theaters for 4-6 weeks anyway, no matter how poorly the film performed because they have the space and the screens.
The real issue with this type of financing for the Patio Theater is that the Patio is very unique. Not only is it an intermediate run theater (showing movies 3-6 weeks after they are released), but it only sports one giant screen, which limits us to the amount of films we can show per week. Our scheduling calls for a change in film every Friday, and with the type of financing that the bigger megaplexes get, we would be forced to play a movie for two or three weeks, and most likely at a higher admission price. We feel that the Patio is the perfect family movie theater, and in order to keep it customer friendly, we need to keep the admission price at $5 and our concession prices reasonable as well.
This is where we need your help! In order to keep bringing in fresh movies every week for both children, families and adults, we need to raise enough money to purchase the digital projection system ourselves.
What exactly will you expect to see with the funding for this new digital projection system:
- Very high quality visuals with every movie we play
- Two new speakers will be installed to provide a much better auditory experience
- A new screen to increase the brightness and visual clarity by at least 25% (and a chance to get rid of our fifty year old screen)
- The fact that the theater will remain open once every new movie produced will be shown exclusively in the digital format.
What changes in programming will we see with a new digital projection system:
- A higher availability of new “print” of movies which translates to watching movies sooner!
- The ability to show a MUCH wider array of older films for camps, schools and company events.
- The inclusion of the theater in local Film Festivals
- The chance for the theater to show its own favorite films and create a dedicate group of movie fanatics.
- The ability to show local independent films to a wider audience.
- The ability to use the theater space for private parties and get-togethers.
- You are also helping shape the cultural diversity of this part of Chicago by saving a theater that brings history, mysticism, art and education to so many new and old faces.
What changes in local businesses will we see with a new digital projection system:
- The theater is the anchor for the Portage Park neighborhood. Since its opening on June 2011, there has opened a Mexican Restaurant, a thrift store, a mobile phone store and a coffee house, all of which are doing well. The Patio Theater brings in foot traffic which in turn brings more potential customers to the neighborhood.
- The ability to show advertisement slides for local businesses during the pre-show to a wide audience, which would in turn increase money flow and business recognition in the neighborhood.
With your contributions you are saving a historic Chicago movie palace from closing its doors once again. You will be contributing to the increase in film arts and education to children and people who have never had the privilege yet of experiencing a movie at a classic 85 year old theater like the Patio. You will be increasing the business potential for an entire section of a growing Chicago neighborhood. You would be directly influencing the ever growing cultural impact of Chicago by keeping a unique vintage movie theater in operation for current, previous and future generations. For those of you near Chicago, we encourage you to take advantage of your free popcorn and pop incentive and visit this unique one of a kind movie theater. For those of you contributing from a city or town far from Chicago, we greatly appreciate your help and we hope you stop by one day if you pass by through Chicago! Thank you everyone for reading our story and helping preserve a historic Chicago movie palace, the Patio Theater!
There once was a time where Chicago was the home of over a hundred movie palaces each with their own unique design and aesthetic. Each one of these theaters were located in a neighborhood of Chicago as a premier destination for pure entertainment. Starting in the early 1900’s children and adults would spend their whole weekends sitting in front of a screen watching cartoons, news reels and double or triple bills of the newest movies out of Hollywood. This trend would continue for decades and still exists today but in a bit of a different way. Cartoons and news reels became a thing of the past, and double and triple bills were left on the way side as rules and regulations changed within Hollywood. As the years passed by, more and more of the movie palaces sprinkled around Chicago were disappearing, along with their history and majestic mysticism it brought. Soon came the megaplexes, large complexes built to fit ten, twelve and even eighteen screens. Much like everything else that was changing in America, the movie going experience turned into something very blunt. A smaller screen, with fewer seats in a flat, lifeless space where people were becoming accustomed to watching their movies. The sense of excitement that came with being transported to a vintage palace surrounded by classic art and an aura of a once bygone era completely vanished.
Today, only a handful of these classic vintage cinemas are left, saved by the graces of those who wish to preserve a part of spectacular Chicago history. One of these theaters is the Patio Theater, located on the Northwest side of Chicago in the neighborhood of Portage Park. The Patio Theater opened in 1927 with the help of the three young Greek brothers of the Mihalopoulos family. With the help of the corner bank (one of the only buildings located in the neighborhood at the time) and the architect Randolph Wolff, they were able to create the majestic Patio Theater.
What makes the Patio Theater so special? Besides the fact that it’s still open after 85 years and in great shape, it features spectacularly detailed Spanish and Italian architecture and designs, a massive screen, twinkling lights and moving clouds on the night sky ceiling and it’s the destination for many appreciative patrons, showing newer Hollywood films for a discounted price of $5.
The Patio Theater has a rich history behind it, spanning eight decades, making it a historical Chicago landmark. There are places where you can read up on its history but my involvement started back in 1987 when my father, Alexander Kouvalis saw a great golden beauty under a layer of mud. The theater has gone through many stages in its life where it was left closed and empty for years until someone was crazy enough to reopen it and take care of such a fragile gem. Such was the beginning of the Kouvalis era, when Alex bought the place and repainted, re-upholstered and touched up the place to look as pristine as it was when it first opened in the 1920’s. Alex was the theater's caretaker from 1987 to 2001 when he was forced to close the place due to the air-conditioning system breaking and his partners wanting out of the business. I spent my childhood there, running down the aisles, admiring a place where art filled ones imagination everywhere you looked. Witnessing the fantasies and adventures, mystery and romance unfold in front of my eyes was something I would never get tired of.
Unfortunately, after its closure in 2001 there were no real plans of reopening the place anytime soon. Alexander was 66 years old in 2001 and after many failed attempts to try to fix the air-conditioning system for a reasonable price, he decided to retire and help this children go through high school and college. It broke my heart to see the place empty, abandoned and left to grow old like many other forgotten movie palaces in Chicago.
After I graduated UIC with a business degree in 2010, I decided that I wanted to do something with the theater. I wanted to see it alive again, to witness the majesty that it once possessed and to show it to a whole new generation of people who have never set foot in a place like this before. After some conversation with my father, I convinced him to help me reopen the place. I told him “If you finance the project, I’ll do all the manual labor.” He agreed, and at the age of 76 it was good to see him so passionate about restoring his beauty to its former glory.
Twelve months passed in which my father, my sister and I would spend close to 10 hours every day, in the blistering hot summer and the frigid winter renovating and restoring this beautiful piece of artistic Chicago history to its original pristine shape. I became consumed by the work, by the notion that I am doing something very few people have managed to do in the whole country. I would not stop until I thought the theater was transformed to its original perfection. On June 3 2011, the Patio Theater opened its doors to the public for the first time in ten years. The outpour of support and thanks, gratitude and amazement was beyond my wildest expectations. The whole city took notice at what my father and I had accomplished and I felt jubilation seeing the wide smiles of everyone who entered the cinema. I knew I had done something magnificent for the city of Chicago and for the Portage Park neighborhood especially. I was in for the long haul and I was perfectly content with that notion.
On October 3, 2011, on my twenty third birthday, Alex Kouvalis passed away after being in the intensive care unit for three days after suffering a major heart attack while driving back home. He was 77 years old. The outpour of love that came from the community was surprising. I never really grasped the impact my father had on the community when he ran the theater from ’87 to 2001. It gave me a new sense of the word appreciation. It was an extremely hard time in my family’s life, but I always tried to remember my father’s face when we finally opened the theater. He was never this happy before, and to see emotion coming from a man who was so good at hiding his emotions was a spectacle to behold. After his death I started hearing from people that he knew, how proud he was of me and what I have accomplished, something he never actually said to me during the whole restoration process. Even though he was a man who didn’t express his feelings very well, it was so good to hear this from his friends, as if he was congratulating me and supporting me from beyond his passing.
I want to continue his legacy by keeping the theater open for old and new generations to come. I promise to try my best to make this theater a special destination for everyone. Thank you for listening to my story, and thank you for your contribution into keeping this Chicago gem alive!
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