Restored Patio Theatre aims to be filmmakers venue

Filmmakers seeking screening venues might visit the classic Patio Theatre in the Northwest Side that has been meticulously restored to its lavish, gilded movie Golden Age splendor after having been shuttered for a decade.

Built in 1927, the classic theatre with its detailed Spanish and Italian architecture has 1,000 seats.  Almost all of its original fixtures — gilded wall decor, ornate chandeliers, hand painted interiors and twinkling “night sky ceiling” stars” – remain intact. 

Now, says Demetri Kouvalis, who at 24 and a 2010 University of Illinois/Chicago graduate, owns the theatre, “the Patio is the perfect place for independent film premieres, screenings and film festivals.”

What is totally contemporary inside the vintage theatre is its new digital projection, which was purchased through an equally contemporary fundraising concept, a Kickstarter crowd sourcing campaign. 

Kouvalis realized a switch to digital was imperative as digital was rapidly making Hollywood’s production of 35mm prints extinct. Since he didn’t want to seek financing from a theatre chain or studio lest the Patio lost its independence and creativity, he decided to finance the $70,000 digital cinema package (DCP) himself.

The admission fee was another reason he sought independent financing.  “We feel that since the Patio is the perfect family movie theater, we need to keep the admission price at $5 and our concession prices reasonable to keep it customer friendly.”

Kickstarter goal of $50,000 reached

The late Alexander and Demetri Kouvalis The Kickstarter campaign started the beginning of June, 2011 and Kouvalis’ $50,000 goal was happily and surprisingly reached seven days ahead of schedule. 

Calling on James Bond’s Full Aperture Systems in Wicker Park, a new Christie 2220 Solaria 3000 watt Digital Cinema Projector, Doremi 2k-4 Digital Cinema Server and a Dolby CP-750 audio processor were recently installed.

Kouvalis is still slowly paying off the DCP balance, he says.  “I knew the system would cost more, but in the end the Patio would have one of the best projections in the city.”

The Patio’s 35mm projectors purchased during the restoration won’t be discarded, he says, and will be used to show older films.  Projectionists are not a problem.  “We know four or five still handling 35mm projectors,” he says.

The Patio in the family for years

Kouvalis has managing the theatre since it opened 18 months ago.  His father, Alexander Kouvalis, who owned the Patio for 14 years, decided to close it when it began needing costly repairs and he had no further interest in the theatre business.

If his father would finance the restoration, Kouvalis said he take over the theatre.  His father agreed and the restoration began in 2010 and concluded in the summer of 2011.  Alexander Kouvalis, remembered as “the savior of the Patio Theatre” and “The Wizard of Austin Boulevard,” died of a heart attack in October, 2011.

Understanding Chicago’s large and active indie cinema scene is part of the community, “I want to be involved in the local film scene any way I can, in the Patio hosting film events,” he says. 

For a tour, rental rates and other information, contact Kouvalis at 847/563-0664 or thepatiotheater@gmail.com.

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