WBEZ | Chatham 14 http://www.wbez.org/tags/chatham-14 Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Movie goers lack options on Chicago's South Side http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-10/south-side-movie-theater-chatham-14-expected-re-open-friday-103360 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chatham.jpeg" style="height: 533px; width: 400px; float: left; " title="Will Chatham 14 be open this Friday? (flickr/Zol87)" />When I wanted to see <a href="http://www.nightcatchesus.com/"><em>Night Catches Us</em></a>, an independent black film released in 2011, there was only one theater in Chicago where it got a regular run: The ICE Chatham 14 on 87th Street.</p><p>But for movie-goers on Chicago&#39;s South Side, the Chatham is one of only a few options for seeing <em>any </em>film.</p><p>So you can imagine how people felt when they showed up Friday night and found a dark, shuttered theater.</p><p>The Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s office issued an eviction notice, which was on the door of the theater, along with another sign saying the theater was &quot;temporarily closed&quot; and would re-open soon &quot;under new management.&quot;&nbsp;The Sheriff&rsquo;s office and the Cook County Circuit Clerk&rsquo;s office had no forthcoming information.</p><p>Now the theater may be re-opening. In an e-mail, owner Alisa Starks (who along with her husband Donzell opened the theater in 1997) said, &quot;It&#39;s been a challenging process. But the theater is expected to be open by Friday.&quot; Starks also said a new company will manage it.</p><p>The rift that apparently caused the original closure, a conflict between the Starks and their investor, Michael Silver, seems to have been smoothed over, at least temporarily. Starks told me, &quot;Most positively, our investor has recently committed to making needed capital improvements.&quot;</p><p>What led to the shuttering of the Chatham had been hard to sort out. In the immediate aftermath of the closing, there were various reports,&nbsp;starting with <a href="http://thesixthward.blogspot.com/2012/10/ice-theaters-evicted-from-chatham.html">this community blog</a>. A <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/15854898-418/ice-chatham-14-theater-abruptly-shuts-its-door.html">Chicago Sun-Times</a> article claimed the Starks have a history of not paying city amusement taxes and had been to court with movie distributors. And CBS2 quoted sources saying things went sour between the Starks and Silver.</p><p>The Starks own outright their Lawndale 10 theater on Roosevelt Road and a shuttered property at 62nd and Western. At Chatham both Starks and Silver have discussed plans for digital convergence and other improvements, but those can&#39;t proceed without some sort of resolution between the partners.</p><p>There are only a few other theaters on the South Side, including the AMC Ford City 14 and the Chicago Ridge 6 to the west of Chatham, as well as the Showplace Icon in the South Loop. At the University of Chicago there&#39;s the student-run Doc Films. And when the Harper Court and 53rd Street redevelopment is complete, Hyde Park will once again have a commercial movie theater.</p><p>But the Chatham is special in other ways. When Alisa and Donzell Starks opened it in 1997, they say they were launching the first African-American owned theater chain in the United States.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-21/minority-owned-theater-chain-ice-re-opens-location-lawndale-85490">I spoke with the Starks in 2011</a>, as they were about to re-open their ICE Lawndale movie theater. They underscored the significance of being a minority-owned theater serving a largely minority community, and providing people with easy access to mainstream movies, as well as films they might otherwise not see.</p><p>At Chatham they&nbsp;screened the latest Hollywood movies. But they also made a place for independent cinema, and for community events: hosting non-film conversations, and screening the presidential debates for free.</p><p>The Starks say they also wanted to provide locals with jobs and help with the area&#39;s overall economic development. In short, the Chatham was meant to be a place not just to see movies but also a place for community building.</p><p>Meanwhile, the community has mobilized. A number of Facebook campaigns were put together by Occupy Black Chicago and Occupy Black Media, local activists mobilizing around economic issues in minority communities.&nbsp;They see the closing of Chatham 14 in the context of a broader economic decline in parts of the city and a lack of access to community and cultural resources, particularly on the South Side.</p><p>Alisa Starks also said ICE is &quot;still contemplating&quot; a press release and statement, likely shortly after the theater re-opens this Friday.</p></p> Wed, 24 Oct 2012 11:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-10/south-side-movie-theater-chatham-14-expected-re-open-friday-103360