In the latest edition of Classic Chicago, we’re featuring a historic Northwest Side theater -- the Patio. Last weekend the theater re-opened after being closed for a decade.
It's like taking a trip back in time to 1927 when the Patio Theater first opened its doors. People came from miles around to see movies like "The Jazz Singer" with Al Jolson. They sat in one of 1,500 seats, where they reveled beneath a ceiling filled with twinkling stars and drifting clouds.
They soaked up the ambiance. The alcoves, faux balconies, arched doorways, hand-carved moldings and coffered ceilings. All of which still exist today.
What will it be like when the Patio actually comes back to life?
"I haven't even seen a movie tested on the screen yet. After 10 years when I see that first frame go up it's gonna be joyous, it's gonna be great," said Demetri Kouvalis, operator of the Patio Theater.
The marquee would still be blank if not for 22-year-old Kouvalis, a University of Illinois at Chicago business grad, who talked his father Alexander, the building's owner, into bringing the Patio back to life after it was mothballed 10 years ago.
"I'm just grateful and happy to keep this building almost exactly the same way as it was in the 1920s and bring it to the people in the year 2011," he said.
Kouvalis spent at least five months painting the entire building. When one trudges up the steep and narrow stairs to the projection room, it looks like it belongs in a movie itself.
Ancient projectors that still work. Yellowed posters and newspaper clippings line the walls. And vertical pull out drawers reveal long-forgotten 35 millimeter prints.
One of the truly unique aspects of the Patio Theater can be found up front by the stage -- the original Barton Organ. It goes back to when the building opened in 1927. Believe it or not, it cost $25,000 at the time.
The pipe organ used to accompany the old silent movies and decades later provided the sound-track for sing-a-longs and concerts.
Another feature that sets the Patio apart: the stunning two-story lobby, replete with mirrors, murals, chandeliers and a domed ceiling.
Bob and Diane Blackwood remember it well; they've got a history here. In 1998 they held their wedding reception at the Patio. They had cake, punch, popcorn and candy. And Gary Cooper in "High Noon" on the big screen.
"People remember it,” Bob said. “Other things they say, ‘Well the chicken wasn't bad.’ This time they say they got to see Gary Cooper in "High Noon."
An added bonus of bringing the Patio back to life? Old-fashioned prices at the concession stand. Maybe not 1927 prices, but candy and popcorn will be priced in the $2 to $3 range, which is pretty hard to find these days.