Classic-movie fans will be pleased to learn that Dennis Wolkowicz—president of the Silent Film Society of Chicago and, under the pseudonym Jay Warren, its resident organ accompanist—is now general manager of the Patio Theater in Portage Park, where he has launched a Tuesday-night revival series in addition to an irregular schedule of indie screenings and free community shows.
Built in 1927, the Patio has had a tortured history in the new century. Longtime owner Alexander Kouvalis closed the theater in 2001 after its air-conditioning system expired, and the building lay dormant for a decade before Kouvalis’s son, Demetri, came forward with an ambitious plan to reconnect the theater with the neighborhood. That plan foundered amid more air-conditioning breakdowns, and late last year the Kouvalises sold the building to local developer Eddie Carranza for $2.5 million.
Carranza’s stewardship of the Congress Theater was marked by revocation of the business’s liquor license, and he may face an uphill battle ingratiating himself with the Patio’s neighbors. Last month Alderman Nicholas Sposato announced his opposition to the theater getting a liquor license, and he submitted to city officials a collection of 73 letters from residents backing him up. But according to Wolkowicz, Carranza and theater operator Charlie Burns want to “shed their image from the Congress Theater days.” Though Wolkowicz still holds out hope for a liquor license, the rest of his program sounds identical to what Demetri Kouvalis had in mind: a family-oriented operation that will also provide a venue for indie filmmakers and other local cinema freaks.
The theater’s free screenings begin this Saturday, May 7, with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975), to be followed by The Breakfast Club (1985) on May 20 and Back to the Future (1985) on May 28. The first classic-film series continues for seven more weeks, with the James Bond thriller On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) on May 10, Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937) on May 17; Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three (1961) on May 24, Harold Ramis’s Caddyshack (1980) on May 31, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950) on June 7, Victor Fleming’s Gone With the Wind (1939) on June 14, and Carmen Miranda in That Night in Rio (1941) on June 21.