PORTAGE PARK — For sale: one aging, money-losing former movie palace in the heart of a struggling business district trying to reinvigorate the western edge of Portage Park.
The Patio Theater is up for sale, three months after it closed its doors because of a busted air conditioning system.
The asking price for the 1,500-seat theater, 18 apartments above the single-screen movie theater and 11 street-level shops and offices, is $2.9 million, said Jim Darrow, of Chicago-based Essex Realty Group.
"The building is in very good shape," said Darrow, who is working to sell the property with his partner Jordan Gottlieb. "The building needs a little sprucing up, but the theater is in immaculate condition."
Heather Cherone breaks down the details of the Patio Theater's sale:
Although the Patio Theater has been on the market less than a week, interest has been strong, Darrow said. A half-dozen interested parties are expected to tour the 40,000-square-foot property Wednesday, he added.
The property is being marketed as a turn-key theater, similar to how Essex Realty Group handled the sale of Thalia Hall in Pilsen, Darrow said.
"The current owners would like it to remain a theater," Darrow said.
Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) called the asking price "ambitious" but said he was cautiously optimistic that a new owner could breathe new life into the former movie palace built in 1927, and reinvigorate the Irving Austin Business District.
"I hope it won't take too long to get the theater reopened," Cullerton said. "It is an important part of the business district."
Cullerton said he would support allowing the theater to host live events, not just film screenings.
The interior of the Randolph Wolff-designed theater was restored in 2011. The auditorium's ceiling features a replica of a night sky, complete with twinkling stars and moving clouds.
The entire Irving Austin Business District is set for a $600,000 facelift that will include pedestrian-friendly crosswalks, bigger sidewalks and new metal light pole banners featuring the logo of the Irving Austin Business District from Austin to Meade avenues.
Three intersections will be "stamped" with a decorative circular design on the pavement in an effort to encourage drivers to slow down — and give the business district a distinctive identity.
"There is a lot of potential there," Cullerton said.
Demetri Kouvalis, whose family has owned the theater since 1987, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
In April, Kouvalis, 25, said he hoped to find a partner to help him finance the needed repairs, but was open to selling it.
Cullerton blamed Kouvalis for the closure of the theater, saying the owner had not taken advantage of his office's help to obtain a city grant to repair the air conditioning system.
The theater needs a more "aggressive, pro-active owner," Cullerton said.
In June, the Chicago Commission on Landmarks agreed to begin the lengthy process of adding the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Road, to the list of buildings protected as official Chicago landmarks, at Cullerton's request.
The Patio was also closed from 2001 to 2010, and two years ago, Kouvalis raised more than $54,000 on Kickstarter to purchase a new digital projector, and reopened the theater to regular shows.
The Kickstarter-funded projector is part of the sale of the the theater, Darrow said.
The Patio Theater's air conditioning first broke a year ago, forcing it to close to regular shows.
But the theater stayed open last summer to allow the Northwest Chicago Film Society to hold its screenings after the abrupt closure of the Portage Theater last spring.
In the fall, the theater reopened with a new business model focusing on classic films and special events and no longer showing Hollywood movies, which were attracting few filmgoers.
That was successful, and business improved — until the theater’s boiler broke in November, canceling several events and shows and forcing the film society to relocate to the Gene Siskel Film Center.
The theater reopened after Kouvalis took out a $16,000 bank loan, but several screenings were canceled because of water damage to the bathrooms and other parts of the building caused by the extremely cold weather.
Kouvalis said he could not afford another $25,000 to fix the air conditioning, and closed the theater.