Crusader Staff Report
Chatham’s Studio Movie Grill, the luxury entertainment complex that brought upscale dining, fancy menus and food delivery service to movie goers on the South Side, is closed for good.
Five months after the national chain filed for bankruptcy, a spokesman for the Studio Movie Grill last week confirmed plans not to reopen the Chatham location after it was temporarily closed because of the pandemic.
“All SMG theaters remain under review, but SMG Chatham isn’t currently part of our re-opening plan,” said Lynne McQuaker, senior director of public relations and outreach for Studio Movie Grill. “Whenever possible, it’s our intent to reopen these shuttered theaters. We will share updates publicly as we have them available.”
A former manager of SMG in Chatham told the Crusader that employees last November were given a letter, informing them of the facility’s permanent closure.
The multi-screen movie theater at 210 W. 87th St. temporarily closed in March 2020 days after Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a statewide stay-at-home order during the pandemic. The Chatham location was among many Studio Movie Grill facilities in U.S. cities that imposed similar COVID-19 restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease.
Last summer, the parking lot of the Chatham location was used as a COVID-19 facility. Today, the facility and parking lot remain empty. Posters of the March 2020 movies “Sonic the Hedgehog,” as well as “The Photograph” and “Bloodshot,” featuring Vin Diesel, still line the walls of the facility’s interior entrance.
With its massive full-service bar and theater dine-in service, Studio Movie Grill in Chatham became a popular attraction since it completed a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2017. Instead of traditional snacks like hot dogs and candy, the theatre offered a big menu that had workers deliver foods like coconut shrimp, barbeque chicken, flatbread pizza to patrons as they viewed movies on the big screen. Patrons ordered the foods from their lounge-style leather luxury seats in the theater.
Located off the Dan Ryan Expressway, the facility includes 1,400 luxury seats in 14 stadium-style auditoriums. The facility also included a dining area with a full bar that served food, cocktails and tasty, non-alcoholic drinks. The facility hosted birthday parties and special events that included disc jockeys and live entertainment.
The Chatham location also screen- ed Black documentaries from Black World Cinema (BWC). One documentary that was screened was Maya Angelou’s “And Still I Rise.” It was followed by a live panel discussion featuring award-winning writer Rosalind Cummings-Yeates, digital media producer La’Keisha Gray-Sewel, and BWC co-founder and program director Floyd Webb.
Last October, Studio Movie Grill filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Dallas-based chain said in the bankruptcy filing that it intended to maintain operations as the debtor-in-possession during the restructuring of its debt, which amounts to more than $104 million in secured debt. According to the filing, the chain said the company had $100,000 in its bank accounts.
The chain had 33 locations before it filed bankruptcy. Today, there are only 20. The chain’s Wheaton location remains the only Studio Movie Grill in Illinois.
Other movie chains have struggled under the pandemic as many movie productions remain on hold. AMC, the largest theater chain in the U.S., has re-opened around 630 locations after closing at the start of the outbreak. Regal Cinemas closed its 543 U.S. theaters, but is gradually reopening locations across the country as the busy summer season nears.
This week, Decurion, the parent company of the Los Angeles-based luxury chains ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres, announced that it won’t be re-opening after struggling to pay rent to several landlords in the past year.