Chicago’s Cinespace Studios to add outdoor backlots

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Pissios discusses neighborhood expansion

Chicago filmmakers have longed dreamt about turning Chicago into a Midwest Hollywood. Now, Cinespace Studios‘ president, Alex Pissios, has taken the steps to make that dream a reality.

What has been in the works for two years came to fruition this past Wednesday when City Council passed an ordinance allowing the 1.45 million sq. ft. complex to expand its campus on the near Southwest side.

“It took two years of traffic studies and neighborhood meetings, but boom, we got it done,” a jubilant Pissios told Reel Chicago. According to the unofficial ambassador of the Chicago film industry, the ordinance calls for the city to vacate a one-block stretch of Rockwell between 15th Street and 16th Street, and a one-block section of 15th from Rockwell east to the viaduct.

A two-block stretch of 16th from Washtenaw to the viaduct adjoining Webster will be leased to Cinespace for five years he added.

ALSO READ: A Day in the Life of Cinespace

Pissios first indicated his desire to expand Cinespace, home to such hit series Chicago Fire and Empire, last year in an exclusive interview with Reel Chicago. Now, the passing of the ordinance will allow the studio to expand from 30 soundstages, ranging from 8,000-20,000 sq ft., to the surrounding streets and the addition of a Hollywood-esque backlot.

The initial cost – $250,000. According to Pissios, this cost will cover adding street lights, landscaping, resurfacing streets as well as other construction.

Pissios told Reel Chicago the first step will be installing a fence and three guard shacks around the studio, hoping for completion by July. This will allow companies to begin shooting in the streets when production for the fall season returns.

In spring 2019, the studio will begin building facades that will include a Chinatown (according to the Pissios the real Chicago Chinatown is one of the most challenging locations to film), New York Greystones, London and Main Street USA.

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The expansion will begin immediately.

According to Pissios, both the networks and studios are excited as this will allow them to shoot in a timely manner on film-friendly streets. Cinespace currently is the production home to Chicago Med and Chicago P.D. as well as the two previously mentioned shows. Filming just ended on a Comedy Central show, South Side, and ten episodes of the HBO series Lovecraft Country and a Netflix drama, Beats.

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A scene from Chicago Fire (Photo by Elizabeth Morris)

Pissios hopes there will be more productions with the three Chicago-titled shows up for renewal and three TV pilots that were shot here as reported in Reel Chicago. Those pilots include an untitled Katie Holmes Fox series, a new series from Empire co-creator Danny Strong and Redline, a series starring TV vet Noah Wyle.

TV shows and films aside, the real win for Pissios here is the chance to create more jobs for the Chicago production community. “That’s the long-term goal and the immediate goal – bring in more productions so we can create more JOBS !!!!”

 
Contact Colin Costello at colin@reelchicago.com or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.

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