Sixteen years ago,
Founder Ruth Ratny
reported on the
status of a highly
and the fate of
Chicago Studio City
Editor’s Note: Beginning today, Reel Chicago will do its own ‘Throwback Thursday’ featuring stories from our archives. The following article was originally published on March 21, 2003. Chicago Studio City is still going strong and continues to host productions like CBS crime drama series “The Red Line” on four soundstages ranging in size from 6,000 to 30,000 sq. ft.
“Of course, we’d try to find another place in Chicago,” said line producer Tom Busch of the sequel to George Tillman and Bob Teitel’s Barbershop hit of last summer.
“We’d run the numbers on modifying an alternate location to make it workable. But we may find that it’s cheaper to shoot in L.A.”
He added: “The message that would send to Hollywood as to Illinois’ commitment to filmmaking is frightening.”
Saving Chicago Studio City as an essential production asset is one of the causes being championed at the Illinois Production Alliance-organized industry rally at noon, Oscar Sunday, March 23 at the James R. Thompson Center.
Actor and Lake Forest resident Daniel J. Travanti is slated to speak and 2,000 supporters are expected.
CSC is the biggest stage complex between coasts. Situated on 37 acres are five sound stages, an office complex, amenities and acres of parking space. Barbershop filmed last year in CSC’s giant, new 30,000-sq. ft. state-of-the-art stage.
Facility manager Ron DeRosa said that the company, owned by John Crededio, is entertaining offers from “many interested parties,” but has yet to make a deal.
Talks about the state acquiring the complex were initiated in 2001 by retired IFO director Ron Ver Kuilen. Since then, the talks have run hot and cold and are presently on ice.
“Unfortunately the state is facing such a large deficit that it may not be able to move on this as quickly as the film community needs it to,” said DeRosa, a 15-year studio veteran.
Were Barbershop 2 able to shoot entirely here, it would employ a local crew of approximately 150 for four months. If only the exteriors were filmed, however, about 120 people would work for a two-months.
The only other places Busch knows are enough to accommodate the movie are state armories. “At this time, however, given the nature of international tensions, those facilities are not available,” he noted.
“Studio City is the cornerstone of Chicago’s feature film infrastructure,” Busch said. “Right now we could shoot a big film like Chicago in Chicago. But in a matter of weeks, if that facility is gone, we wouldn’t be able to.”
Many White Papers and reports to the Blagovejich people urgently advocated that the state purchase Chicago Studio City and have an independent, non-profit organization manage it.
Above the Law | About Last Night | Adventures in Baby Sitting | Blankman | Blink | Code of Silence | Dennis the Menace | The Dollmaker | A Family Thing | Flatliners | Four Friends | The Fugitive | Hard Ball | High Fidelity | Home Alone I and II | Hoodlum | Hoffa | Hudsucker Proxy | I Love Trouble | Music Box | Natural Born Killers | Only the Lonely | Ordinary People | Poltergeist III | Return to Me | Road to Perdition | Soul Food | Stir of Echoes | While You Were Sleeping | Chicago Hope | Chicago Story | Crime Story | Early Edition (88 episodes) | ER | Missing Persons | The Untouchables | What About Joan?
Busch believes it is no longer profitable for a private party to own the facility, especially not in the current economic climate. “It would be incredibly feasible if it were acquired by the state and used as a tool to generate jobs and revenue through taxes. With a minimal amount of work it could be self-supporting.”
Busch cited the example of Austin, Texas, which has enjoyed a substantial increase in production since the state government began supporting the industry there.
Austin purchased old airplane hangers and converted them into studios, “facilities that are not as good as Studio City,” Busch said. “Those properties, along with tax incentives, have turned Austin into a fairly busy film production center, which it really wasn’t five years ago.”
DeRosa estimated a cost of $50 million to construct a facility comparable to Studio City. While he wouldn’t cite a specific figure, he said CSC’s sale price is a “a fraction of that cost.”
Since opening in the old Hotpoint refrigerator plant on the West Side in 1986, hundreds of features and TV shows have filmed there in their entirety or in part.
Stages have been empty, however, since Joan Cusack’s ABC sitcom was canceled in October, 2001, and CSC’s fleet of trucks and equipment have been leased to L.A. companies.