Friday, December 29, 2017

20 years ago ICE Chatham 14 Theaters opened...

Reading the archived ICE Theaters website their three theaters were open for business on November 24, 1997.  Meanwhile 20 years later we discuss some history and ultimately the future.

In October, Worlee Glover at Concerned Citizens of Chatham marked the occasion in the 1990s when Donzell & Alisa Starks - the couple who owns ICE Theaters - approached the community about opening their facility in Chatham. It's noted that while there have been many changes to the theater since opening in 1997 one aspect of their vision remains - we still need not have to go too far from our neighborhood to catch the latest Hollywood releases.

Wanting to see Tomorrow Never Dies - a James Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan - it was nice to not have to drive to the then General Cinemas and current AMC Theatres at Ford City to catch a movie. Just drive up the Dan Ryan to 87th Street to catch a show. It was something my mother and I had done faithfully for years. The Chatham community has a history of successful Black-owned businesses which included Seaway Bank and it was also cool that this theater was Black owned even if day-to-day management were actually performed by Cineplex-Odeon at the time.

Little did I recognize at the time that Chatham wasn't the only theater that the Starks' owned. There were theaters on the west side of Chicago in Lawndale on Roosevelt & in Englewood on Western. Then by the summer of 2007 those two facilities were closed although the Lawndale theaters near Roosevelt & Homan were re-opened in 2011 with the help of some special financing. After 2007 ICE Theaters were the sole operators of the Chatham and later Lawndale in 2011.

It's hard to believe that our Chatham theaters have been open for 20 years currently under Studio Movie Grill. We've covered the ICE Theaters as they were one of those businesses that serves the community and had been Black-owned. One of the important stories we've covered in our 10 years occurred just 5 years ago when JP Paulus went up to catch a movie and saw eviction notices on the doors there. The Chatham itself was locked and for the next week closed for business. That weekend according to an ICE Theatres press release at the time they were gearing up for the release of Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry.

The eviction was the result of a business dispute with a then unknown partner - Michael Silver. The theaters were reopened after a week and renamed Chatham 14 Theaters and ultimately Silver took over ownership. Then in 2014 Chatham was sold to chain Studio Movie Grill and by 2017 had a relaunch with renovations.

Meanwhile ICE Theaters continued to operate the Lawndale theater until December 2013 after which it was only available for private events. We learned that in 2015 ICE Theaters had filed for bankruptcy. 2016 one-half of the husband & wife founding team Donzell Starks passed away from cancer. In 2017, wife Alisa Starks is beginning the process of building a new theater in South Shore on 71st & Jeffrey.

I embed the FB post from Worlee's Concerned Citizens of Chatham. Some information out there that I wasn't aware of. For example, the Lawndale theaters were sold and the Englewood theaters are currently on sale waiting for a buyer. As of the summer of 2017, the Lawndale theaters were reopened under Cinemas Entertainment. As of now I have no further information on this company.

I snapped some pics nearby in September and whoever buys the property may choose to either rehab the building itself or simply tear it down and start over. Would like to share some of those pics with you although I posted a collage of pics on Instagram of the property which includes a former Jewel-Osco and of course the former standalone Sears store.
For additional reading check out our tags for previous posts

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