Cinespace, CSC expansion to give city 11 new stages

Besides 2013 being the year of Chicago’s major breakthrough as a favored location for Hollywood entertainment projects and a giant film spend increase pouring into the local economy — this summer also will mark the year of the biggest stage expansion ever. 

Both Cinespace Studios and Chicago Studio City are gearing up for expansion to accommodate the anticipated new business from Hollywood that’s starting to head our wave in droves.

Cinespace’s four big stages are open for business, and two more stages under construction for completion in two to four months, says president Alex Pissios with contagious enthusiasm.

“All these TV shows are the beginning of things to come,” he says.  Nick (Miropoulos, Cinespace’s owner) always knew this would happen when he decided to create a film complex here.  We’re just starting to scratch the surface of business – and we’re ready for it.  We’ve got the service and labor – the unions keep hiring, and we keep building stages and everyone is staying on the top of their game.

Although he’s preparing for two or more TV series to headquarter at Cinespace, Pissios says he hasn’t received any contracts yet from either network.  But since NBC/Universal’s “Chicago Fire” has been headquartering and shooting there, and its spinoff, “Chicago PD,” will do the same, the chances are good that NBC/Universal’s “Crisis,” the pilot that shot in L.A. and surprised everyone by coming to Chicago, could make it a trifecta for the studio.

Pissios hints that two additional series might be headed our way (one being the long-rumored Fox series called “Legends”) in addition to the nine TV and film projects set for four months of filming here, starting in July. 

And whatever Hollywood may require for its Chicago productions, Cinespace – and the city, he says, is prepared for it.

Besides the two new stages, Cinespace has been developing a back lot by purchasing three houses in the nearby residential neighborhood.  “If ‘Chicago Fire’ needs to burn a house or ‘Chicago PD’ needs one, they’ve got them, and that’ll save them money, too,” he says.

Chicago Studio City adding two stages

Out on the West Side, established, 33-year old Chicago Studio City, for years the biggest studio complex east of Hollywood,  is also gearing up for the future of Chicago production. 

The studio is undergoing a massive expansion, says company owner John Crededio, Sr., whose sons John Jr., president and Joe, VP, run the day-to-day company operations.

Chicago Studio City is a complex of three sound stages, 10,000-sq. ft., 16,000-sq. ft. and 24,000-sq. ft., situated on 11 acres, or 120,000 sq. ft. of land.  Plans are in the works to have two new buildings completed this summer, Crededio announces. 

“We’re converting an existing 15,000-sq. ft. shop into a fourth stage, and we’re building a 30,000-sq. ft. utility building for wardrobe and set construction.”  Another building set for construction is a 2,500-sq.ft., two-story office building. 

In addition, the Crededio’s own Chicago Studio Rentals, an equipment company that has a $3 million inventory of grip and electric equipment, trucks, lighting, rigging and generators, for rental by their studio clients and also for rent to commercial commercials.

Chicago Studio City started out as small stage rental/equipment Company on Grand Avenue in 1980, Crededio recalls.  In 1983, he bought the former Fred Niles Studio on West Washington Blvd., which became Oprah’s Harpo Studios a few years later.  Then in 1986, Crededio purchased the former Hotpoint appliance plant and created the Midwest’s largest filming complex that hosted countless movies and TV shows over the years.

CSC’s recent show was the Sony pilot, “Doubt,” which was not picked up as a series.

With the city’s stage ability to accommodate multiple projects, in-depth union crews as part of the established infrastructure, “The word is out in L.A. about what we’ve got going in Chicago now,” says Pissios, “and it makes them feel good that this is a big film center they can feel confident and comfortable working in.”