The Patio, a gorgeous old movie palace currently experiencing a run of very bad luck
  • Julio Salazar
  • The Patio, a gorgeous old movie palace currently experiencing a run of very bad luck

After getting shut out of its former home at the Portage Theater last May, the Northwest Chicago Film Society found refuge at the Patio Theater in Portage Park. Now, just five months later, the society is packing up its reels and moving on again to the Gene Siskel Film Center in the Loop.

The Patio, which was without air-conditioning throughout the summer, is now without heat; its boiler, installed when the theater was built in 1927, has broken down.

“Given the considerable expense, scarce parts, and specialized expertise required to fix this crucial piece of equipment,” says Becca Hall, the society’s executive director, “we cannot predict when the theater management will have the heat restored.”

The society will screen M this Wednesday, November 6, at the Patio as scheduled. But it will show its next film, No Time for Love, at the Siskel on Sunday, November 17. The full updated schedule has been posted on the society’s website. Admission is now $11 per film, or $50 for a pass to all seven remaining films on the society’s 2013 schedule.

The mild weather this summer made it possible for the Patio to keep showing movies without air-conditioning, but it’s harder to get through a Chicago winter without heat.

I’ve left a message with Demetri Kouvalis, the Patio’s owner and manager, and will update this post with more information about when he thinks the boiler might be repaired and if there will be changes to the Patio’s own programming.

UPDATE: “It’s been a perfect storm of catastrophes,” says Kouvalis.

He first found out the boiler wasn’t working when he checked it four or five weeks ago. “I thought we’d have more time to fix it,” he says, “but we didn’t think it would get so cold so fast.”

The problem with fixing an old boiler is that there aren’t very many repair people who understand how the mechanics work or who know how to get the parts. Kouvalis has spent the past few weeks searching for someone who would be able to get the job done before January. Fortunately, he says, he’s finally found someone and the heat should be on by November 17 when the Patio is scheduled to premiere a Wild Chicago DVD and definitely by the end of the month when Kouvalis plans to screen Dario Argento’s Suspiria, a film that hasn’t played in Chicago in nearly a decadesince 2009.

There’s no animosity between the Patio and the Northwest Chicago Film Society, he says. “The other location was giving them a deadline and I had no answer. They said they had to finish the season. They’re very open to coming back for the spring and summer season. We should have the air-conditioning fixed by then.”

Ironically, before this latest catastrophe, the Patio was doing a good business in hosting special events and one-off screenings. “It’s two steps forward, one step back,” Kouvalis says. “It’s hard to upgrade with things breaking down. It’s harder than I anticipated. But we’re still open.”