La Grange theater set to reopen Thursday for first time since March 2020 with ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ – Chicago Tribune

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The La Grange theater, closed since 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on many American institutions, reopens this week.

The reopening, as Classic Cinemas La Grange, is made possible by the unanimous decision of the Board of Directors on December 13, 2021 to create a cinema tax of 50 cents on cinema tickets sold in the Village.

“The cinema tax has not yet been imposed as there is no active cinema in the village at the moment,” La Grange chairman Mark Kuchler said at the regular council meeting on Monday. from the village. “But on Thursday everything changes.”

The historic venue will be one of hundreds of theaters across the country opening with “Top Gun: Maverick,” the anticipated blockbuster set more than three decades after the original film introduced us to Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the character made famous by Tom Cruise. iconic performance.

The ordinance creating the movie tax is the result of a sometimes contentious discussion between residents and village officials about what to do with a venue that first opened in 1925 but has fallen on hard times these days. last years.

The first blow was the rise of online streaming which devastated the business of second-run theaters like La Grange; what little business they had left was lost because the pandemic forced its closure.

This left the former operators of Théâtre La Grange, who will continue to own the building, with a serious financial problem.

They had reached an agreement in 2009 that the village would provide them with a $1 million loan for infrastructure upgrades, with the agreement that the loans would not have to be repaid as long as the building continued to operate as a theater .

Enter Classic Cinemas, a company based in Downers Grove.

Classic cinemas began in 1978 with the opening of the Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove. The company has since earned a reputation for restoring historic theater buildings by offering first-run films at reasonable prices with free refills of popcorn and soda and by upgrading its facilities while maintaining their historic vibe.

Classic Cinemas definitely saw the possibilities in the historic building and plan to spend around $1 million upgrading the venue, including the famous heated reclining seats the company is famous for.

But with Classic wanting no possible liability for a loan in which they had no part – and the building’s current owners unwilling to sell the property – the Village was faced with the problem of how to retain a popular La Grange landmark. while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

The answer was the 50-cent levy agreed upon at the December board meeting, with the agreement that the Village would split half with Classic Cinemas.

Details of the deal were finalized by unanimous board approval on Monday evening.

The tax-sharing agreement with Classic Cinemas is contingent on the theater opening within 10 months of the agreement and the theater continuing to operate for at least three years.

A key provision of the agreement is that the tax will still be in effect after the village recovers the million dollars in loans it offered to the former owners, meaning the village will have the revenue stream to the coming.

Classic Cinema CEO Chris Johnson is thrilled with the opening and shared some of his plans with the board and meeting attendees.

He said he wouldn’t tell anyone a movie was good if he didn’t believe it, but insisted that “Top Gun: Maverick” was really good.

“If you remember 1985, you’ll enjoy this show,” he said, though he noted that people would enjoy it without seeing the original.

He said the La Grange theater would have three screens open for the first two weeks, all showing the Tom Cruise film, and the largest measuring 40ft wide.

He pointed out that the plan was to open three more screens by the start of July and that he was confident he would be able to secure first-run films from cinema companies, saying “they will give us all the films that we are”. looking for.”

Earlier, Johnson outlined plans for the first weeks of operations, saying “Jurassic World Dominion” was set to open June 10, “Disney/Lightyear” June 17, “Elvis” June 24, and “Minions: the Rise of Gru” July 1st.

“Summer is such a big season for us,” he said.

Kuchler was happy.

“I think it’s a real win, win, win,” he said.

Trustee Beth Augustine agreed.

“For any city to have a historic theater is a treasure,” she said.

The next meeting of the La Grange Village Board of Directors will be June 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the La Grange Village Hall, 53 S. La Grange Rd.

Hank Beckman is a freelance journalist for Pioneer Press.

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