Portage Theater Reopens With New Programming
PORTAGE PARK — After shutting its doors for about a year, the Portage Theater officially reopened Saturday.
And Charlie Burns, who runs the theater, said it's ready to roll out a mix of programming aimed to please the neighborhood.
The historic theater will feature everything from live rock music to silent movies to stand-up comedy.
"We're going to mix it up and kind of see what the community likes because this is really our market around here, so we're going to test the waters and go with what works," Burns said Saturday.
Residents said they are glad to see the historic space reopen but wonder what sort of impact the venue will have on the Six Corners Shopping District.
"I think it'll be good for the neighborhood if it's controlled and it's not a disturbance to the neighbors," said Mary Ann Rage, who has lived in the neighborhood for 22 years.
The former movie palace, located at 4050 North Milwaukee Avenue, opened during this weekend's Six Corners BBQ Fest, which runs through Sunday.
The 94-year-old theater shut down in May 2013 during a dispute over the venue's liquor license. Ald. John Arena (45th) and local business owners opposed the venue's owner, Eddie Carranza, from obtaining a liquor license, citing his turbulent history at Logan Square's Congress Theater.
Carranza, who owned the Congress Theater, saw its liquor license revoked in May 2013 after city officials said the venue "created a nuisance" in the neighborhood.
Carranza bought the Portage Theater in September 2012, and leased the theater to Burns, a former production manager at the Congress Theater.
The Portage Theater’s liquor license, public place of amusement license and food consumption licenses were issued May 13 when Burns bought Portage Theater Management Inc. from Carranza and filed the appropriate paperwork to notify the city, officials said.
Neighbors like Rage, who have seen the theater go through up and downs over the years, said the reopening is definitely good news.
But Rage said she is waiting to see if the venue will draw rambunctious crowds and the problems that come with them.
"I get up at 5 in the morning, so as long as there's no noise, that's fine," she said. "If everybody has a good time...if they behave, I think it'll be good for the neighborhood."
Burns said residents will not have to worry about the sort of problems that plagued the Congress Theater. He said the theater is targeting an older, more mature crowd and has a staff that comes from the neighborhood.
Sandra Porter said the theater's abrupt closing last year angered a lot of people.
"I don't like how it's been handled so far, so we'll wait and see how it goes," she said. "But I like that they're still showing classic movies."
Portage Park resident Chris Daley said he was excited to see the theater reopen its doors.
"I'm pumped," said Daley, who came out for Saturday's street fest. "The lineup looks good...I'm a big fan of cover bands, so I'll have to check it out."
Burns said programming will be a "work in progress" but said it would include music that young couples can come enjoy, have a few beers and then walk home. The theater will also try daytime entertainment for all ages and something for students. He said they will try live theater and also some Bollywood entertainment to see what people like. Physically, the theater is the same, he said.
Overall, Burns said the reopening went smoothly Saturday and said the "little controversy" surrounding the theater is behind them.
"We've had a lot of really good support from the community," he said. "Everybody's happy that we're open and they're excited to see what we're going to do."
Entertainment kicked off with a 4 p.m. comedy show and a trio of classic films aired at 6 p.m.
On Sunday, another comedy show and classic movie screening are scheduled for 4 p.m. Tickets to both Sunday's shows are also free. A complete lineup of upcoming events can be found on the Portage Theater's website.
CONTRIBUTING: Heather Cherone
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