Historic Patio Theater in Portage Park is for sale

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Patio Theater

The marquee at Patio Theater. (Anthony Souffle, Chicago Tribune / June 17, 2013)

The Patio Theater in Portage Park is for sale, according to Demetri Kouvalis, who rehabbed the venue three years ago.  Built in 1927, the movie theater has been in Kouvalis’ family since 1987.

Closed since May due to a broken air conditioner, Kouvalis cited cost issues. “The reason we had to closed is because the air conditioning broke last summer.  Then the heating system broke over the winter.  So it was a catastrophe of things happening in a six-month period that led to tens of thousands of dollars in expenses that I didn’t have,” he said Tuesday.

“We already put so much of our own money into that renovation.  We just couldn’t afford to put in more.  So we as a family decided it was best to sell the building and find somebody that has the appropriate money and time and management (skills) to make the theater what it could be.”

Problems with air conditioning were the reason Kouvalis’ father decided to shutter the movie house in 2001 and it remained dark until 2011 when Kouvalis — a recent college graduate — worked to reopen the venue.

Aside from the AC and an 87-year-old boiler, Kouvalis says the space (on Irving Park Road at Austin Avenue) is in good condition and includes a digital projector he purchased with funds raised last year on Kickstarter

The property is listed for $2.9 million and Kouvalis says he doesn’t want to sell to developer looking to tear it down to make way for condos.  (The building is in the process of attaining landmark status, but currently is not protected.)  He wants it to remain a theater — either for movies, live events or both.

“We’ve been working with the real estate agent to find people who will want to use the building as a venue, not turn it into something else.  If the theater’s still for sale one or two years from now and we can’t find anybody?  Then we might be open to other people.  But we believe we can find somebody who will use the space as it should be.”

How long can they wait?  “We already have interested people coming in this week, so we’ll see how serious they are about the theater portion versus the residential (18 apartments) and commercial portions (11 storefronts and offices). 

"But people shouldn’t worry because I’ve spent so much of my time and so much of my money making the theater look as it was in 1927, as authentic and original as possible, that I don’t want to just sell to anybody.  We’re not so desperate that we have to sell it tomorrow.  We are going to wait for the right people.”

There’s a strong emotional connection Kouvalis has to the building. “I grew up two blocks down until I was 14 years ago, and I would be there every day.  It was where my dad worked, and it was like a playground for me.”

nmetz@tribune.com

@NinaMetzNews
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