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ICE Chatham 14 Movie Theater Closes ... for Now

By Wendell Hutson | October 23, 2012 1:18pm | Updated on October 23, 2012 2:06pm
 Movie tickets bought online Thursday for the new movie "Alex Cross," starring Tyler Perry, but ICE Chatham 14 theater currently is closed.
Movie tickets bought online Thursday for the new movie "Alex Cross," starring Tyler Perry, but ICE Chatham 14 theater currently is closed.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

CHATHAM — Bessie Leigh was so excited about "Alex Cross," a new movie starring Tyler Perry, that she purchased her tickets Thursday online.

But on Friday she found out that her favorite movie theater, the ICE Chatham 14, had unexpectedly closed.

"I have been coming here forever. I cannot believe they would sell tickets online one day and then close the next day. This is unbelievable," said Leigh. "I bought four tickets and was coming up here to buy some more. All I want to know now is, how can I get my money back?"

That was a question for a number of people as, one by one, they drove up to the shuttered 14-screen theater at 210 W. 87th St.

"I was wondering why I was not able to go back online and buy more tickets," said Nell Howard, a Chatham resident for 37 years. "Now I know. I live 10 minutes away from here, and you mean to tell me they closed after getting my money? Shame on the owners."

Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. said he has been told the theater will reopen in a week and all tickets will be honored.

Alisa Starks is founder and owner of Inner City Entertainment, which owned the Chatham theater and also owns the ICE Lawndale theater at 3330 W. Roosevelt Road, which remains open.

Starks did not immediately return calls for comment.

According to the Cook County Sheriff's Office, an eviction was entered in Cook County Circuit Court on Aug. 16 and carried out Friday.

"The plaintiff (owner of the building) in this case is 210 W. 87th St. THC, LLC, and the defendant in this case is ICE Development LLC," said Nora Sheahan, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office. "That is all the information we have at this time."

Brookins, whose 21st Ward includes the Chatham theater, said the theater is expected to reopen within a week under new ownership.

"I have spoken to Michael Silver, who is a business partner of Alisa Starks, and he has assured me that he plans to reopen the theater next week and will rehire all former employees and make good on any tickets purchased online," Brookins said.

No advance notice about the pending closure was made known to the public or employees because, "she (Alisa Starks) was in the process of trying to refinance the building and I assume was hoping the financing would come through before the eviction was carried out," Brookins added.

Senior citizens and students who arrived Friday eager to purchase tickets in advance for the Perry movie but instead found two signs taped to the door.

One sign read: "Temporarily closed. Will open under new management soon." And the other sign was from the Cook County Sheriff's Office, which read in part: "All persons have been evicted from these premises."

And for those who purchased tickets online, Marcus Gulley, a manager at the ICE Lawndale theater, said, despite what Brookins was told by Silver, he was not sure if advance tickets would be honored at ICE Lawndale. 

"I just found out a little while ago about the closing so I couldn't really tell you if we would honor tickets purchased for the Chatham theater," Gulley said.

Some community organizations are more upset that the only black-owned movie theater on the South Side is gone.

"The closest movie theater to Chatham is Ford City (in south suburban Burbank), and who wants to go way out there?" said William Howard, a longtime member of the Chesterfield Community Council.

The Chatham theater opened in 1997, and according to Brookins, it regularly employed high school and college students from the community. Simeon Career Academy High School is located three blocks from the theater, and in September the Obama for America campaign sponsored a free viewing of the presidential debate at the theater.