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Eddie Carranza: I'll Run Portage Theater Myself

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 8, 2013 1:45PM

Photo credit: Anonymous Profile...

DNAInfo Chicago reported Sunday that embattled Congress Theater owner Eddie Carranza would be the primary operator of the Portage Theater, has spent $100,000 to tackle necessary repairs to the theater so far, will retain Dennis Wolkowicz to handle film programming at the Six Corners landmark and buy a digital projection system for the theater, allowing it to screen first-run features

Carranza, who told DNAInfo a month ago he hired an unnamed person to handle the Portage’s operations, also said he would handle the music programming for the venue and, with Wolkowicz aboard, wants to transform the Portage into a destination venue that serves as a foundation of economic development for the area.

"[Wolkowicz] and I are the perfect combination," Carranza said. "We know what this community wants."

Wolkowicz knows what the community wants. Carranza has changed his mind so many times midstream and told media outlets like DNAInfo so many things (sometimes in the course of one article) we’re not certain he even knows what he wants, other than press.

Case in point: Last month Carranza told DNAInfo that Wolkowicz willingly transferred the Portage’s liquor license to him. In Sunday’s article, Carranza acknowledged Wolkowicz retained the liquor license. On one hand, this is a smart move, given Carranza’s ongoing hearings with the City Liquor Control Commission over the Congress’ liquor license. Wolkowicz has the roots and respect in the community Carranza lacks and, so long as he remains working with Carranza at the Portage, neighbors will work with the Portage, albeit guardedly. (Of course, if the Portage becomes embroiled in the same alleged liquor license violations as the Congress, Carranza has an easy scapegoat in Wolkowicz.)

Carranza’s plans to book music at the Portage could be affected if and when City Council approves the Commission on Chicago Landmarks’ recommendation for landmark status on the theater. Landmark status means, at the very least, Carranza can’t tear out the seats inside the venue to increase capacity.

The money Carranza has invested in repairs to the theater has already proven valuable, according to DNAInfo. The theater’s marquee has been repaired and the lobby has a new chandelier and a fresh coat of paint. Ald. John Arena (45th) is taking a wait-and-see approach to Carranza’s words, having been burned by him before.

"One coat of paint isn't the end of the story," Arena said. "He has to come forward with a plan that is acceptable to the community."

Carranza, for what it's worth, said the audience at the Portage would not be as "hipster" as the Congress.