Portage Theater closes, Music Box and Patio theaters step up to absorb programming

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The Portage Theater

The Portage Theater Photograph: Max Herman


It's been a terrible week for independent film programming in Chicago. 

On Tuesday, Patio Theater owner Demetri Kouvalis announced he will close the Portage Park single-screen during the summer months due to a broken air conditioner that's too costly to repair. Yesterday, more bad news: Portage Theater owner Eddie Carranza closed the doors of his historic movie house, citing a dispute with 45th Ward Ald. John Arena over the establishment's liquor license. Carranza's decision to shutter the Portage indefinitely came the same day the city revoked his liquor license for the troubled Congress Theater, which has a track record of public nuisance violations

While Carranza appeals the decision in Logan Square, Arena says he won't support the controversial theater owner's attempt to serve liquor in the ward. The stalemate has sent Portage film programmers scrambling to find screens for their events. 

Music Box Theatre, for now, will absorb some of the previously scheduled Portage Theater showings, a spokesman for the Southport Cooridor theater said in an e-mail this evening. The Northwest Chicago Film Society, which has been bracing for eviction since Carranza purchased the theater last September, will screen a newly restored print of Shirley Clarke's 1967 documentary Portrait of Jason at Music Box on May 29 at 7pm. 

"The Northwest Chicago Film Society is tremendously grateful for the Music Box's generosity and enthusiasm at this critical time," NWCFS programmer and vice president Kyle Westphal said in the e-mail. "We have an obligation to our audience to present the films we promised on our calendar and we take this expectation seriously." 

"There is no way of knowing what the future will hold, but it was important to act quickly to secure a venue for this important screening," Music Box GM Dave Jennings said in the e-mail. "The closing of the Portage is very unfortunate for the film community." 

The Patio Theater is taking on NWCFS's screening of Douglas Sirk's All I Desire on May 27 at 8pm, according to the Portage Facebook page. It appears the Patio will remain open so long as the unseasonably cool weather persists. The Croods is playing through May 30, according to the theater's phone message and website. Chicago Cinema Society director Neil Calderone has canceled scheduled CCS screenings at the Patio.

"It is incredibly unfortunate that the Patio Theater will be closing for the summer," Calderone said in an e-mail. "We love working with the Kouvalis family and are looking forward to working with them and the Irving/Austin business district when the Patio reopens in early fall."


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