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Hyde Park To Get New (Old) Movie Theater

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 16, 2012 5:30PM

Photo by BWChicago

The Chicago Maroon is reporting that the movie theater at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue, which was built in 1915 but has been closed since 2002, will reopen this fall.

Originally named the Harper Theater, it was later called the Hyde Park 1 & 2 before finally closing. It was added to Preservation Chicago's Most Endangered List a few years ago. The facility is actually owned by the University of Chicago but will be operated by The New 400 Theaters, whose solid little neighborhood theater near Loyola is one of the nicest things about East Rogers Park. The reopened Harper Theater will boast five screens, featuring "children’s and wide-release films," as well as art exhibition space and a restaurant of some kind serving lunch and dinner.

An excellent article in Time Out Chicago spotlights the myriad problems that redevelopment faces in Hyde Park: too many stakeholders, not enough "spending power" among neighborhood residents, isolation from the Loop due to spotty CTA service, yada yada, "Hyde Park was where scientists invented the Bomb. This part of town looks bombed out."

Despite all that, we're cautiously optimistic. Tony Fox, the owner of The New 400 Theaters, certainly turned that theater around. Hopefully can do the same with the Harper. He's also said that he's open to partnering with Doc Films, perhaps offering the reopened facility as an additional screening space on occasion. Even healthy small movie theaters have their work cut out for them, not least because of digital projectors' looming ubiquity, but a vibrant theater can trigger the appearance of a host of other businesses nearby. (Perhaps a decent cocktail spot? Please?) For now we'll just have to cross our fingers.