By Erick Johnson
The owner of the building that housed the shuttered upscale Studio Movie Grill in Chatham has plans to reopen the theater with a new name and several renovations.
The plans emerged after the Crusader reported April 17 that the Dallas-based chain decided not to reopen the Chatham location, which had been closed since the pandemic struck Illinois in March 2020.
Jon Goldstein, the owner of the building that housed Studio Movie Grill, is working on plans to reopen the facility as Chatham Cinemas Powered by Emagine. Goldstein owns and operates nine Emagine branded theaters in Minneapolis, three in Detroit and two in Pennsylvania.
Since 2019, Goldstein has owned the building that housed the Studio Movie Grill, located at 210 W. 87th St. in Chatham. Last October, the Dallas-based chain filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the pandemic forced it to close locations across the country, including Chatham. Today, Wheaton is the only Studio Movie Grill in Illinois.
Studio Movie Grill is among many movie chains across the country that have been hit hard after they were forced to close during the coronavirus pandemic.
Goldstein said he had to secure nearly a million dollars from private investors to save the building from repossession by the bank.
This week, Goldstein applied for the federal-sponsored Shuttered Venue Operator Grant, which is known as the “Save Our Stages” initiative. He hopes the grant will help ongoing efforts to secure the building and the theater’s future.
Several years ago, Studio Movie Grill gave its Chatham location a multimillion-dollar makeup that included luxury seating, dining and food delivery service that’s offered in most theaters on the South Side. Foods like coconut shrimp, barbeque chicken and beef brisket sliders were among many items that were offered on an elaborate menu where food was delivered to patrons as they viewed movies on the big screen. A massive bar with flat screens allowed patrons to view live sporting events while sipping alcoholic beverages and cocktails.
For many Blacks on the South Side, the place became more than just a movie theater, but a popular, affordable hangout for birthday parties and special events with live music and entertainment. Seniors frequented the theater on Tuesdays for special discounted ticket rates.
Goldstein said he and his designers visited the Chatham location last week to sketch out plans to make additional interior and exterior renovations to the facility that would cost nearly $1 million.
Those plans include installing a new concession stand cabinet that will replace the old crumbling one that was 25 years old. A special Coca Cola free style machine with 350 beverage choices will be installed.
In the dining area, new, larger booths will be installed to accommodate more patrons.
At the front entrance, one of two ticket booths will be replaced with a special kiosk that will allow patrons to purchase tickets with the touch of a button. The existing self-purchasing ticket terminals will remain.
Goldstein said the lobby will get a fresh makeover with “artistic treatments” on the walls.
Inside the 14 movie theaters, Goldstein said aisle lighting will be installed on risers or steps to allow patrons to move safely to and from seats.
Outside, Goldstein plans renovations to enhance the building’s appearance. They include new lighting and signage.
Goldstein said there are no plans to renovate the restrooms but said they will be equipped with hand sanitizers.
Goldstein unveiled his plans during Alderman’s Howard Brookins’ (21st Ward) virtual town hall meeting held on April 24. The plans were first reported in the Chicago Tribune.
“I think people are going to be amazed at what we’re going to do inside the building,” Goldstein said during the meeting.
Two features that patrons will no longer see are the elaborate menu and ordering special delivery service from their seats. Goldstein said patrons can order food at the concession stand and have it delivered to their seats.
Goldstein said the theater will serve snacks that include hot dogs, pizza, quesadillas.
three flavors of popcorn and candy.
“They’re going to move way from the gourmet food and go back to the more traditional things you’re used to in the movie theater,” said Ald. Brookins.
Goldstein said he plans to reopen the theater by August in time for the release of the Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect,” with Chicago native Jennifer Hudson.
With new Hollywood films set to help reinvigorate struggling movie theaters across the country during the busy summer season, there is no pressure for Goldstein to have the facility open by Memorial Day Weekend.
“It’s more important for us to do it right,” he said. “We want to knock their socks off when they come back.”