Outstanding film spaces at new Logan Arts Center

The University of Chicago’s new Reva and David Logan Center  for the Arts holds especially tantalizing possibilities for cinema and Chicago’s film community, given that the massive new building houses two spaces especially designed for visual media presentations.

The 184,000 sq. ft. Logan Center, which sits at the southwest end of the Midway Plaisance, boasts a 474-seat performance hall. Its acoustics and sight lines are so stunning, the space has already gained acclaim as one of the city’s best. That’s no easy feat, considering that helicopters from the U of C hospital fly low overhead.

In accommodating film, the performance hall is decked out with arsenal of audio and visual accoutrements, including a digital video matrix switcher that can direct images to video projectors, backstage monitors and lobby monitors through out the building.

Surround sound speakers are cleverly hidden behind custom-woven wall fabric that looks like solid material to the naked eye, and more than 50 double-layered wool panels also line the perimeter of the structure. Out of sight when not needed, they can lower in less than a minute to provided additional absorption of low-frequency rumble.

Screening room can handle 8 film formats

The 129-seat film screening room is housed in the Logan’s majestic 11-story tower. It’s capable of handling eight formats of film in surround sound–including 16mm, 25mm, digital and 3D, and is located conveniently above the Logan Center’s café, and surrounded by alternating arts classrooms and theatre studios that ascend the tower.

Says Steve Wiesenthal, a U of C associate vice president and university architect: “This building is for actors, dancers, the creative arts, writers, musicians—-and it’s about mixing it all up together.”

Given that the Logan Center is so new, its creative possibilities as a spark plug for local filmmakers and students with bold cinematic vision have barely been tapped.

But there’s understandable excitement within the University of Chicago’s film community about what a facility like this will mean in the long run.

Screening room will host more activities

“The screening room itself is a nice step up in terms of the look and feel of the place,” says Julia Gibbs, assistant director of the U of C’s Film Studies Center.

“It’s a bit more professional and aesthetically leaning toward film presentation. There’s nothing better than a big, bright, crisp image in a very dark room with clean, clear sound. We now have that in every screening we present.” 

(On Nov. 30, they’ll host their first 3D screening in the screening room with Wim Wenders’ “PINA” at 7 p.m. Admission is free.)

Gibbs also hints that the Logan gives the university a chance to bring in activities running the gamut from expanded conferences to special guests from across the cinematic landscape, though it’s too soon to reveal anything just yet.

That said, she adds: “I can certainly see room for more connections between filmmakers and the university community and hope that this new space will help to foster that relationship.”

A former Chicago Tribune movies editor and DVD columnist, Lou Carlozo is chipping away at a new screenplay on the travails of a struggling rock band, based on his own time in a 1908s hair band. He is also a record producer and co-owner of Kingsize Sound Labs.