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Park Ridge’s old Pickwick Theater to close in January

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Park Ridge’s iconic Pickwick Theater will roll its final credits in January after welcoming moviegoers for nearly a century, its owners told the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press on Tuesday. .

Co-owner Dino Vlahakis, 63, said his family is closing the old movie theater, which has been losing money almost consistently since the outbreak of the pandemic. However, they want the “Knight in Shining Armor” to take over the operation.

The Vlahakis family has owned the 900-seat theater since 1967. After opening as a vaudeville house in 1928, it stood on Park Ridge and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, according to information from Park Ridge History. center.

Vlahakis said Pickwick is now set to release its final film on January 8th.

“We don’t want it to end. Someone might see this as an opportunity,” Vlahakis said. “But[co-owner]Dave[Rumos]and I can’t do that anymore.

Empty seats and an organ stand near the edge of the movie screen at the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge on December 6, 2022.

Vlahakis said he plans to retain ownership of the building, which has 24 other tenants.

But it’s getting harder and harder to raise money to run theaters, he said. Part of that is because fewer movies are showing in theaters.

“Cinema has declined,” said Vlahakis. “For example, at Christmas time, there are[historically]10 or 11 films to choose from. This year, he has only five films in theaters.”

With fewer films showing, theaters miss opportunities to bring back patrons, and ticket sales decline.

“In the old days, if you had a bomb, at least you had a blockbuster because you had a new movie coming out every week,” he added.

The trend towards chain cinemas didn’t help either, he said.

“When I opened in 1981, 50% of the cinemas were independent cinema owners, and then 50% were chains,” he said. “Today, 95% are chains and 5% are independent movie theaters.”

Walls and ceiling inside the Pickwick Theater lobby, December 6, 2022. The Art Deco theater he built in 1928.

That’s not to say Vlahakis doesn’t believe it’s still possible to run an independent cinema. However, he said it will require more creativity than before and the willingness to get through the dry times.

Vlahakis’ father bought the theater with three other partners in 1967, he said. By 1972, his father had become a sole proprietorship. He said he started working at Pickwick as a usher when he was 13, watching audiences laugh at comedy punch lines and jump to horror movie scarepoints.

Maureen Jones was in the audience on Sunday when Vlahakis announced plans to close its theaters ahead of the screening of the movie The Polar Express.

“We’d been going there forever, so I relied on my husband,” recalls Jones. “you’re kidding?”

Jones grew up in Park Ridge and said she saw her first movie in Pickwick.

She said she was sorry to hear the news, but added that she understood the decision from a financial standpoint.

“Unfortunately we can’t all live in a museum,” she said. “We have to look forward.”

Pickwick has enjoyed many notable moments in its 94 years. Film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were ready for the close-up when they filmed the intro for their TV show there. Filming for the Chicago Fire television show took place there over the summer. Park Ridge native Hillary Clinton visited and spoke in her 2019. This cinema shows classic film series curated by Matthew Hoffman.

In addition to the main theater in the Art Deco building, Pickwick’s four smaller cinemas will also be closed, co-owner Dave Loomos confirmed.

Vlahakis credits the support of the community from residents of Park Ridge and nearby suburbs to sustaining Pickwick for nearly a century.

“They still support the theater. I think they love that it’s an independent, family-run theater,” he said. “We owe our survival to the town of Parkridge and the surrounding area.”

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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