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Sweet: Redford Moving In on Fannie May

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on May 29, 2007 2:13PM

It's now (sort of) official: Robert Redford's Sundance Cinemas has signed a lease to open an eight-screen theater on the site of the former Fannie May candy factory in the West Loop. The last time we reported on this story was way back in 2005. But as anyone waiting for a Dominick's to reopen in lakeview can tell you, real estate development often moves about as quickly as a glacier. (Tangental rhetorical question: whatever happened to the Trader Vic's that's supposed to be reopening here in Chicago?)

2007_5fanniemaysundance.jpg At this point however it seems like the Sundance deal is finally happening. They've agreed to occupy 40,000 square feet of space in a building that will also contain a bar and restaurant, other commercial tenants, and residential space on the upper floors. (Speaking of that Trader Vic's, wouldn't this be a great place for it?) The parcel of land at 1137 W. Jackson was a Fannie May candy factory until the company went belly up in 2004; it has since come out of bankruptcy after being bought out.

As for Sundance, they seem to be bucking the trend which has seen some tough times for movie theaters. But rather than trying to amp up the movie theater experience with gimmicks like 3-D or designer martinis to get butts in the seats, Mr. Redford is sticking with good old-fashioned indie content to lure people away from their high-def home theaters. They've just opened a theater in Madison and have plans for others in San Francisco and Denver. The target opening date for the Chicago theater is 2009.

To us, the West Loop sounds like a good choice of location. It's underserved as far as entertainment options go; after all, you can only go to so many Oprah tapings. Its location right off the Eisenhower could prove very seductive to motorists from the burbs. If it means that they'll get some culture and help to support indie cinema, we're all for it.

Fannie May photo via B12 Solipsism