Thursday, January 24, 2013

Norridge Theater closes after flooding

      The AMC Lowes Norridge 10 Theater, 4520 N. Harlem Ave., closed on July 15 after a water main break flooded a portion of the theater.
      Norridge building commissioner Brian Gaseor said that a water main that fed into the theater broke and flooded several auditoriums in the western portion of the theater in a section that was part of the original theater building. The cost to repair and replace the carpeting and seating was estimated at more than $100,000, Gaseor said.
      The property was being leased to AMC Theaters, but in the past it operated as a Lowes Theater before AMC merged with that company in 2006. The theater also was a Sony Theater, and it opened as a Marks and Rosenfield Theater, Gaseor said.
      “They had it in their contract that if something ‘catastrophic’ happens, they had the option of walking away,” Gaseor said. “The theater operator is still responsible for fixing the main and providing maintenance for the building.” Gaseor said that the property manager is Colliers International.
      Colliers International senior property manager Gloria Valerugo said that AMC Theaters had a clause in their rental agreement that gave them the option of leaving and they chose to do so, citing the flooding as the reason. Valerugo said that AMC had been leasing the property since 1988.
      AMC Theaters spokesman Ryan Noonan said that the company decided to close the theater and concentrate on other venues.
      “We continually strive to upgrade the quality of our theatre circuit by adding new screens and by disposing of older screens through closures and sales,” Noonan said in a statement. “We do, however, look at our theaters on an individual basis, and we have decided to close AMC Norridge 10.”
      Gaseor said that the building will not be demolished. “We don’t want to send the message that this will be an abandoned building because we will keep an eye on it,” Gaseor said.
      Norridge Mayor Ronald Oppedisano said that while cost of the repairs was cited as the reason for
closing of the theater, the state of the movie industry and its competitive nature also may have played a factor.
      “It’s painful to see it close because it put the village into focus over the years and brought people into the village that otherwise might not have stopped here, and it also opened up room for people to visit other businesses, either before or after the movies,” Oppedisano said.
      Oppedisano reflected about the legacy of the theater and its impact on the village. “I remember when it opened in 1970 as a kid and how busy it was,” he said. “It was a pretty big deal back then because they were state of the art, with giant screens, and they had seats that rocked back and forth.
      “But as time went by and with the way that movies are today with the opening of these Muvicos, especially the one in Rosemont, where they cater to every need of the customer, it was hard for theaters like the Norridge to compete,” Oppedisano said.
      According to an article published in 1970 in Boxoffice magazine, a publication of the National Association of Theater Owners, the Norridge opened as a twin theater on a 10-acre parcel of land. It seated 1,200 people and 900 people in the two auditoriums, and there was parking for 932 cars, according to the article.
      The first movies that were screened there were “Paint Your Wagon” starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood and “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” according to an ad that ran in local newspapers at the
time. The Snoopy character was scheduled to make an appearance during the matinee, the ad said.
      The original building featured sloping white masonry walls that were capped at each end and at the entrance with a mansard roof made of metal siding, according to the article. The lobby had white walls with cedar panels and blue and green carpeting and a 14-foot-diameter chandelier, the article said.
      Gaseor said that two additional auditoriums were added to the original building in the late 1970s and that six more were added in the second building over time, he said.
      “From a municipal standpoint, we would prefer to have it demolished,” Oppedisano said. “You hate to see it standing there vacant, but unfortunately that is a part of the economy right now and it’s fairly common.”          
      Oppedisano said that there were plans to create a large retail development anchored by a Costco store. He said that the closing of the Maurice Lenell cookie factory and the Cookie Jar store in 2008 was to be a part of the expansion along with the theater, but that Costco instead built a store on the former Kiddieland site in Melrose Park.
      “The problem with developing that area is that there are many separate property owners and it’s
been hard getting them all together to some common denominator to sell the parcels so a big development can come in,” Oppedisano said.

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