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Patio Theater to Go Dark After One Last Show

  "The Strange Love of Molly Louvain" will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Patio Theater.
Patio Theater To Go Dark After One Last Show
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PORTAGE PARK — For the third time in less than a year, the Northwest Chicago Film Society is homeless.

After one last screening Wednesday night, the Patio Theater will close its doors because of a busted air conditioning system that owner Demetri Kouvalis can’t afford to pay $50,000 to fix.

“We’re used to it at this point,” said film society executive director Becca Hall. “What can you do?”

But the film society isn't riding off into the sunset like a vanquished hero of one of its beloved classic films.

“No one should worry we’re giving up,” Hall said, adding the group is working on finding a new home and hopes to have something to announce soon.

The film society, which was founded in 2011, was bounced from its home at the Portage Theater 11 months ago when owner Eddie Carranza locked the doors of the former movie palace in the Six Corners Shopping District as part of a dispute with Ald. John Arena (45th).

The film society moved to the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Road, only to have the 87-year-old theater’s air conditioning break a month later, forcing movie lovers to break out in a sweat to enjoy celluloid magic.

“It was a privilege to show movies in a space like the Patio,” Hall said.

In November — just as the film society launched its fall season — the theater’s boiler broke, forcing the film society to move to the Gene Siskel Film Center Downtown to avoid frostbite in the aisles.

Once the Patio's heat was fixed in February, the film society returned, only to find itself back on the street this week.

The film society was born in a 300-seat theater in the former Bank of America building at 4901 W. Irving Park Road that is now slated to become a grocery store.

While Hall and co-founders Kyle Westphal and Julian Antos work on finding a permanent home for the film society and the occasional special screening, the group plans to focus on another aspect of its mission — film restoration.

The film society’s restoration of “Corn’s-A-Poppin’” from 1955, which was written by five-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Robert Altman, is almost complete, Hall said.

The group eventually found a near-perfect copy of the film — which the society calls “just about the most free-wheeling and sing-able hour of cinema we’ve ever seen” — for sale on eBay and another copy at the University of Wisconsin, Hall said.

“It is a film worth seeing,” Hall said. “It is exciting that more people will get to see it.”

With a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, the group pieced the film back together and will show it May 4 at the University of California-Los Angeles as part of a retrospective of Altman’s work.

“We’re following the mission of the film society in a different way,” Hall said.

The film society will show the 1932 crime drama "The Strange Love of Molly Louvain" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Chicago-set flick “promises a brisk maternal melodrama and a mettle-testing gauntlet of spontaneous sincerity,” according to the film society.