By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
Moviegoers in the South Suburbs are happy to learn a new movie theater will be coming to their area in a few weeks. The Crusader broke the story in January of how AMC Loews closed its theater at 4201 W. 167th street in Country Club Hills. But in April, Milwaukee based Marcus Theaters announced they would be moving in after renovating the property. Some of the renovations will include leather reclining seats, a remodeled lobby, larger screens and an upgraded audio system.
Perhaps the best news is the new renovated theater is expected to bring 150 jobs to the area. When Loews closed with little warning, many in the community were concerned for the young people who lost jobs working the concession stands and selling tickets. They say having jobs and positive things for young people to do is a way to keep down crime.
“I’m excited and happy for the young people more than anything else,” said Phillip Anderson, who back in January told the Crusader the area needs jobs. “Most of the kids in the community are doing the right thing and going to the movies is a family activity, but also something they can do with their friends for fun. The theater also provides many of them with their first real job experience. That’s why I think it is important we keep businesses like this in our community.”
Marcus officials have not given the Crusader an exact opening date, but say it will be sometime this fall. A construction worker at the site told a Crusader reporter on Aug. 17 they were hoping to have everything done sometime in the middle of October. That means the theater will be open well in time before the holiday season, when tons of new movies are released.
In recent years movie consumers have demanded more from theaters. Theaters with smaller chairs that do not recline or have stationary arm rests are considered outdated. Today’s moviegoers are enjoying the amenities of higher quality foods and beverages, larger plush seats that recline, and things to do while waiting for their show to begin like visiting the restaurant on site.
In a recent study conducted by the financial advisory firm PwC, nine percent of those polled cited better technology as a draw to the movies, and another eight percent mentioned more comfortable seating. Those amenities have been missing from movie theaters in African American communities, a complaint from many Black moviegoers. The theater in Country Club Hills serves a diverse demographic but mostly African Americans.
“I’ll really be looking forward to the new theater and what all it has to offer,” said Frank Hayes of Posen. “I go to the other Marcus Theaters in Chicago Heights and it is pretty nice. But like everything else people are going to want to see what the new hot thing is going to offer. I’m really happy they are going to have the leather, reclining seats so I can sit my fat butt down in them and relax,” he said with a hearty laugh.
Part of the enticement for Marcus Theaters to come into the area included tax incentives the Crusader has learned. The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved an assessment change for the property on March 23, according to meeting records. The commercial tax rate for the property is 25 percent of the market value. But with the tax deal, the Tucker Development Corp., which owns the property, the site will be assessed at 10 percent for the next decade. It will increase to 15 percent in year 11 and 20 percent in year 12.
Marcus Country Club Hills Cinema will employ approximately 125 associates, including a mixture of new hires and associates transferring from other theatres. Applications will be accepted beginning next week at MarcusTheatres.com.