If you follow Logan Theatre on Facebook or have tirelessly been inquiring about the ever-changing reopening date—as a resident of the neighborhood who's gotten pretty sick of Regal City North 14, my hopes of a reopening were dashed a handful of times—I'm sure you've already heard enough about the new seats (sans the sensation of sitting on springs), new digital projectors, new screens (three of four), enhanced sound system, and lack of stale urine smell. Predictably, Mark Fishman acknowledged that his "art project" has had a few detours along the way.
"It was more than a face-lift," Fishman told me. "The electrical in this building was a challenge. The plumbing was a challenge. [The theater] was built in 1916, and the same family had owned it since 1922. It was a puzzle of stuff."
"We started as one thing and then we had to put some paint in the lobby, change the seats, fix the bathrooms, and it just went on. And at that point I'm like, all right, let's go for it."
And he did, for sure. In addition to what should be an improved movie-watching experience, the theater expanded into the I Am Logan Square storefront next door (the not-for-profit now lives on the theater's right side). The added bar/lounge/concession area will provide a setting for you to knock a couple back before or after the movie. Or if you just want to knock a couple back without paying the seven bucks to watch a movie—yes, it's a hike in price—you can do that too. There will be six beers on tap and 35 bottles and cans, each of which you can take into the theater without having to smuggle it underneath your jacket like the days of yore. The concession offerings will also feature all-natural pizzas and pretzels, Intelligentsia coffee, and Bobtail Ice Cream, among other local staples. Pints of beer and all-natural pizzas at the movies? The times, they are a-changin'.
Though the theater received some severe gutting, Fishman stressed that the company tried to repurpose a good deal of the theater's classic aesthetic. Marble walls hiding under layers of plaster and paint were given new life and a stained glass window in the arch of the entrance was restored. Molding from old movie poster frames hanging throughout the theater was used as accents in doorways, and of course, the old box office was spit and polished to the nth degree.
Fishman took me around the space, pointing out the tweaks made to the interior. As he mused on one renovation, he was quickly distracted by another detail that got its own five-minute explanation. Much of the theater's new material and furniture was custom built, a note both Fishman and head of marketing Shaylah Kloska repeatedly hit on.
"When we started, we had to fix the bathrooms, fix the carpet, put the seats in," Fishman said. "We had everything made, really. Even the drinking fountains. I wanted drinking fountains that were art deco. But there's a bunch of periods throughout, because once we found all the stained glass and marble, the period of art deco changed. It all flows and gets a little 20s, 30s, and 40s."
It's taken a few extra months to complete, but the project—even with the buzz saws still blaring—is impressive, exemplifying the neighborhood's sometimes-lauded-sometimes-frowned-upon makeover. Fishman wasn't shy about telling me the renovations blew up the budget several times over, admitting that when you buy a working 1930s-era phone booth from Canada to help add to the theater's vibe, you're in it to win it.
During my visit the floors were still concrete-bare with clusters of perfectly gaudy movie theater carpet lying around, but I was assured that everything should roll out nicely come tomorrow.
Check out some photos of the theater as it nears it's complete renovation (all shots by Reader photo editor Andrea Bauer):