Country Clubs Hills movie theatre closes without warning

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By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader

Movie goers in the south suburbs have been shocked when they learned a popular movie theater in Country Club Hills is no more. The AMC Loews Theater located on 167th just east of Interstate 57 closed on Jan. 10. The closing comes after the owners of the building significantly raised their rental fees, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

The 16-screen theater housed an IMAX screen, which when it first opened in 2002 was one of the only ones in the area with that technology. Many African American community groups held outings at the theater. Its location, the only movie theater in the area, was a big draw for African Americans who live in Harvey, Markham and Country Club Hills.

“AMC was unable to reach an agreement with the landlord and the theater’s final day of operations was Sunday, Jan. 10,” said Ryan Noonan, director of corporate communications for AMC in an email. “We thank our guests at AMC Country Club Hills and invite them to continue enjoying their AMC experience a few miles away at AMC Loews Crestwood 18.”

Octavia Wright showed up at the theater this week with two of her kids. To her surprise she was greeted with a sign on the door saying the building was closed but directing her to the Crestwood site.

“I’m shocked. I didn’t hear about this on the news or from talking to people,” she said. “I was looking forward to watching a movie with my kids today so we will just have to drive somewhere else. But I feel sorry for people who don’t have a car because this place was within walking distance for many people.”

Crusader sent an email to Country Club Hills Mayor James W. Ford, who was elected to office last year after former Mayor Dwight Welch was forced out, seeking comment. He responded the following day but refused to discuss the issue and was upset Crusader was doing a story on the situation at all.

“I don’t see why you need to do this,” Ford said. “You are going to make it hard for us to get a contract with the next person coming in.”

Crusader informed Mayor Ford the purpose of the article was to inform the public about the situation and to get answers to residents’ questions, not serve as a public relations outlet for Country Club Hills. He responded by saying, “have a good day,” and hung up the phone.

“I feel sorry for the kids who worked there and now have nowhere to go,” said Phillip Anderson, who has lived in the area for nine years. “I think about them when I see that place closed. We have a tough enough time finding them jobs and here we had a place where they could work as cashiers, ushers or the concession stand. Now it’s gone. What do they do now?”

The theater was part of what was originally the Magic Johnson brand theater chain. Johnson however is no longer involved with the AMC Lowes group. In the meantime, movie goers are expected to go to Crestwood or Marcus Cinemas in Orland Park and Chicago Heights.

 

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48 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for writing this story. It is an important story to the community, and one that needed to be told, regardless of the feelings of the current administration. It’s a sad day when important information has to be conveyed via word-of-mouth, which lends itself to distortion of the truth, and misinterpretation, rather than via a reliable source, with a distribution that allows all parties to receive the same message. Please keep up the good work. That is the job of the media.

  2. Sad, sad, sad! This theatre closed all because of some money hungry greedy arse MFS! And the Mayor keeping this important information on the hush hush speaks volume on his integrity and character. If the community was informed, perhaps we could or would have united and fought to keep this business open, now we have to go spend our money in someone else neighborhood to watch a movie.

  3. Here is my question. Let me preface this with, I do not live in the area or know the politics of the area, so this is a genuine I want to know question. Why would the mayor be able to get involved in the closing of the theatre? Isn’t this a privately owned building doing business with another privately owned company? I’m not disputing the contribution the theatre brought to the community. I’m just curious why the administration would be questioned about it or held accountable.

  4. I can’t answer your question, but his response suggests he’s taking it personally, which suggests that he did indeed have something to do with it. You’d have to Google the political history of Country Club Hills to see how corrupt and dysfunctional it is.

  5. This is definitely an important story…I was apart of the original crew that helped open this theater as a supervisor in 2001 (2002 is incorrect). I met my husband there where we both worked and we will be together for 15 years June 18th, 2016.

  6. This is very saddening and angering. A group of about 10 friends and I see every marvel release as well as many others on the imax screen and we were very confused as to why the owners would do this. We were even more upset to find out the mayor had part in it because he was trying to force the owners and amc to open an outdoor theater to the rear of the building because the city needs to profit off of that space. That space is supposed to be for the mythical outlet mall that has been coming for a long time. This whole situation is insane and you would think the mayor would keep this source of revenue open but instead they want anyone who will agree to an outdoor theater that won’t be successful.

  7. Find out who/what entity owns the property and then see who sits on its board, there you might find a relative, friend or future employer of the mayor. He stated doing this story would make it hard for them to get a new tenant, meaning they overpriced the last tenant out, kept it quiet so they can get max price on the next sucker… I mean tenant. It is part of the mayor’s office to maintain a healthy commerce for the community wooing businesses and property development raises funds(taxes) that provide for the services rendered by the city. But if you are in the pockets of the land owners and developers your loyalties lie elsewhere.

  8. Why does it say this was a place for African Americans to go? Gosh, I’m embarrassed, I didn’t realize that theater was for African Americans. Can some tell me where the white American theater is at? Articles like this one is why people can never let go of racial issues. I’m pretty certain black people are allowed to go to whatever theater they want just like white, Asian, Mexican, Indian and so on! For what it’s worth, this was a neat theater to go to and it is sad that it closed down.

    • That is exactly what I thought about the article…. I only came to read the comments to see if anyone else thought it was an odd thing to say as well. African American Theatre SMH

  9. It was the only theater nearby that had IMAX. Now I have to drive 40 minutes to see a movie in IMAX. This is very NOT convenient. Very disappointed in the closing of this theater! Just because of greed! That’s the ONLY reason.

  10. Why did you have to make it about race? I live right across the street from AMC and I’ve been there a billion times, wasn’t just African Amrticans there. People from all over came out because it was one of the nicer theatres in the area.

  11. In other words, according to the article, didn’t nothing but black folks go there so why not close it. If it was voted to close since high rent seems unlikely to me I’m sure if some black folks were aware of the vote it would probably have stayed open. Then again, nobody really knows what really happened but I do sense a bribe.

  12. I like the comment about going to other suburban locations while there taxes are low as other areas especially country club hills taxes keeps going up. There should be more discussions about building more minimarts stores and businesses in these areas to keep taxes down in which I think maybe one of the reasons why the building owner raised their rent…my thought.

  13. I’m just finding out and am happy the information was released. Why is it an issue to keep residents informed. Wow, what a way to build confidence & respect of residents. Thank You for educating!

    Also, I feel that the theater served many ethnic groups.

  14. I’m missing our theater. I’m a long time resident of 58 years. Our communities should have long prosper with even more jobs as well as having a great theater. look where we are located. Our communities are located in the mist of 57, 80, and 294. Traffic go’s north, south, east, and west. It’s a great stopping point for everything. I ask, What’s Up? No other communities near by has this. It a Blessing. Think about it, and bring back my theater please.

  15. I enjoyed watching movies there. Hmmm, wasn’t aware it was a “black” Theatre. I found it clean, comfy. Dawggone shame it’s gone. Now Owner has NO renter – ouch, that must hurt come mortgage/tax paying time – and I certainly hope it DOES!!

  16. I learned from my mother just yesterday that the theater closed down. It was quite a surprise considering box office movies sales over the past ten years have been historically high. In addition, the I-57 movie location is practically in the heart of the south suburbs. Also, this comes recently after completion of renovating the 294/57 connection. Just reading the comments of the mayor of Country Club Hills Mayor reminds me that Neo-Colonialism is alive and well. Moral, Integrity and Character does it exist?

  17. Thank you for writing this. This is so true. I’m a teenager ,this all me and my friends did we ate at apple beez then on our way to the movies.now that they tooken the movies what do we have? Our parents don’t have timtime to drive us around that was walking distance for us. This was something positive we was doing , we wasn’t involved in any thing bad but now that they taken our theater what are we suppose to get into? This is not right at all,you guys need to open it back up maybe a different type of theater but a theater because now that its gone me and my friends have nothing to get into but trouble being teens and in today’s society.

  18. Read a book , learn to write and spell young man. The fact that the theater closed is no excuse for you or your friends to get into trouble. Pray work hard stay law abiding get your education buy and own your own theatre.

  19. Don’t know if anyone has heard but Marcus Theatres is renovating this location here is an excerpt from the website that is due to open sometime in the fall. There is no mention of IMAX but the seating is to be upgraded and expanded concession assortment. Almost look similar to the AMC Concept Red Kitchen Theater at Yorktown Shopping Center in Lombard, IL

    http://www.marcustheatres.com/theatre-locations/country-club-hills-cinema-country-club-hills

    The Country Club Hill Cinema is your premiere entertainment destination. Featuring DreamLounger recliner seating in all 16 auditoriums, one UltraScreen® DLX auditorium, a SuperScreen® DLX auditoriums, a complete theatre remodel, a Take Five Lounge, serving beer, wine and specialty drinks and the 50s diner-inspired Reel Sizzle® concept, serving delicious smash burgers, fresh, never frozen chicken tenders and hand-dipped signature shakes.

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