CHATHAM — Besides its name, little has changed since new ownership took over the South Side's only movie theater.
Formerly ICE Chatham 14 Theaters and now the Chatham 14 Theaters, located at 210 W. 87th St., the cinema was once the only black-owned movie theater in Chicago, featuring films geared toward an African-American audience and employing local youth.
Now Michael Silver, who had been part owner for the past five years, is the majority owner after the theater's founders, Donzell and Alisa Starks, sold it to him, Silver said.
The Starks, founders of Inner City Entertainment, still own the ICE Lawndale 10 Theaters on the West Side, according to Alisa Starks.
“We are thrilled that we have come to this agreement,” said Silver, who is white. “We are looking forward to taking the Chatham 14 Theaters into the next stage of development. We’re making plans for upgrading the theaters with digital projectors, new carpeting and other amenities to make this a world-class entertainment venue on the South Side.”
Silver declined disclosed financial terms of the deal.
The business relationship between the Starks, who declined to comment, and Silver soured in October when Silver had an eviction order he filed in Cook County Circuit Court enforced. The theater was forced to close for a week after Cook County sheriff's deputies shut the building down. It later reopened with a new name and new management, F & F Management Inc., which took over daily operations from the Starks.
Even though the cinema is no longer black-owned, Silver said that the Chatham 14 Theaters would continue in its role as the film hub of the neighborhood by hiring local vendors and employees, as well as presenting a platform for independent filmmakers.
That means community-focused programs and deals — such as Zumba classes, senior discounts on Wednesdays and Fridays, and free monthly health screenings, which will be held on the first Friday of each month — will continue, said Venisha Johnson-White, manager of the theater.
That's good news for Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st), whose ward includes the theater.
“The residents of Chatham will be relieved to know that their theater will continue to be a safe and inviting meeting space,” Brookins said. “We hope to see many more community-related events being held in that space.”