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Should the City Fix Highland Park Theatre?

It will cost the city $90,000 to bring one of the theater's four screens up to fire code. Is it worth it?

Highland Park Fire Chief Pat Tanner handed the City Council some bad news about the at its last meeting:

Though some City Council members believe reopening the theater may be worthwhile for the nearby businesses, many Patch readers think it's time to sell it off without putting anymore money into it. 

"Why the city got involved with this theatre I'll never understand," writes . "They should sell this property immediately."

Reader agrees, going as far to suggest the city tear the building down and just sell the empty lot.

"The City should put the building up for sale and cut its losses," he writes. "Don't throw good money after bad."

But not all readers have given up on the theater. On Facebook, Matt Feddermann suggests the city sell it to an entity that will turn it into a music venue or a BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) theater. Stashs owner Bobby Dubin in the same space and has been pleased with the results. 

AJ Chalom is one of the few readers who believes the city can turn a profit on the theater. She believes it comes down to improving the way it's managed.

"Don't let it sit, properly manage and promote it to attract teens, families, and local residents," she writes. "Give it a Facebook page, put movie times on the DBA website and the city website. Don't let it just deteriorate."

What do you think? Should the city spend $90,000 to reopen part of the Highland Park Theatre? Or should it leave it shuttered until it finds a buyer? Leave a comment or submit a blog post here.

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Adam Natenshon August 07, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Neighborhood theaters are the core of a vibrant commercial district. They draw people throughout the evening and into the night. The Music Box is the core of the Southport restaurant district and Davis is the core of Lincoln Ave district. The newly restored Logan Theater on Milwaukee Avenue is drawing patrons from around Chicago and has spurred and is supporting the opening of many new restaurants and stores. A vibrant Highland Park Theater is one the best investments that can be made in the longterm vibrancy of the central Highland Park business district which provides an important employment base, significant sales tax revenue and is essential to the quality of life in Highland Park.
David Greenberg August 07, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I understand that there's certain services which function on a pubic v. private basis. In some instances, it's both. Take "private" streets - they're plowed by a private service. I wouldn't want to hire a snowplow for my street, because our City does a great job. But honestly, during some really heavy snows when the City was busy with the main roads, ours hadn't gotten done, so I got out my snowblower and did the whole street. What I'm driving at is that sometimes services are rightly handled by the Public. But the movie theater isn't one of them, and never should have been.
David Greenberg August 07, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Who operates that Theater?
David Greenberg August 07, 2012 at 06:26 PM
IMAX Theaters come in a couple of shapes and sizes - all have huge screens, but a true IMAX is an enormous screen. We'd need a bigger building just to surround/support it. Then there's the seating - that has to be built in a certain manner, certain distances from the IMAX screen. Add in IMAX sound systems. And don't forget the IMAX projector. The whole thing runs into the millions of dollars, and unless you can pack in the crowds and give them adequate parking, it's not a worthwhile bet. The Regal IMAX also has what - 15 or 20 other screens in the same building? I don't think that I've ever seen an IMAX theater stand alone - with just that. There's always something else around it to make a draw - a museum, a cineplex, mall, etc... We just don't have that in the area, and couldn't really build it in that location. Traffic in HP is already pretty interesting at times, can you imagine a REALLY, REALLY big crowd? Oy... As for someone with business sense turning it into a single theater - I think that the lack of proposals speaks volumes.
David Greenberg August 07, 2012 at 06:28 PM
What's open in the evening/night in HP? Not much. The theater isn't open now, and the businesses in that area seem to be doing just fine. Along with late evening/night usage comes other costs and issues to contend with. I agree with Gerry - you gotta do the math first.

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