PORTAGE PARK — A broken air-conditioning system will force the Patio Theater to close during the lucrative summer months, after a grant from the city failed to materialize, the theater's owner said Monday.
Demetri Kouvalis blamed a miscommunication with a city official for making him think the former movie palace had won a Small Business Improvement Fund grant from the area's tax increment financing district.
Instead, the Patio’s application came in 13th out of 15 applications seeking the grants — and there was only enough money to pay for the top eight or nine proposals, Kouvalis said.
“It is definitely not good news,” Kouvalis said. “There’s no money for us.”
There is no way Kouvalis or his family — who have owned the theater since 1987 — can afford to fix the air-conditioning system, which will cost a minimum of $40,000 to $50,000 to repair, he said.
Kouvalis said he had struggled to attract enough people to screenings to break even while maintaining the 86-year-old building, which he said “was too big for its own good.”
The theater will remain open for the next week or two, and then it will close for the summer, Kouvalis said.
The theater at 6008 W. Irving Park Road draws the most movie lovers during the sultry summer months, making the problem with the air conditioning especially aggravating, Kouvalis said.
The Patio will reopen in the fall with a new business plan, Kouvalis said.
“We will find a way to benefit the community and to keep the doors open,” Kouvalis said, declining to discuss the new approach in detail.
Kouvalis said city officials have told him additional money could become available through the small business grant program in the next several months, although it probably wouldn't come in time to keep the theater's doors open for the summer.
Ald. Tim Cullerton, whose 38th Ward includes the Patio, said he would look into finding another source of funds for the theater.
“We’ll find out what happened, and see what we can do,” Cullerton said. “This is sad news.”
The closure of the Patio Theater is a blow to the area's Irving Austin Business District, which boasts new stores and restaurants, Cullerton said.
Since reopening in 2011, the Patio has shown a mix of second-run Hollywood movies and classics. The theater can also be rented out for special events.
The uncertainty surrounding the theater's future prompted the Chicago Cinema Society to put its lineup of classic films, which had been showing at the Patio since March, on hold earlier this month.
Neil Calderone, the founder of the society, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.