Moviegoers showed up to the I.C.E. Chatham 14 Theater Tuesday to take advantage of bargain matinee day. Instead, they were turned away because the movie theater is closed – for now.
Husband and wife owners of Inner City Entertainment (I.C.E.), Donzell and Alisa Starks, who leased the building, were evicted from the property. Friday sheriff’s deputies shut the Starks out of the building and posted a bright green notice of the eviction on the front door.
Tuesday yellow signs were also posted indicating that the theater would reopen “soon” but under new management. A security officer was stationed in a SUV outside the entrance and patrolled.
The Arnold family bounded through the theater parking lot after taking a bus and the Red Line train to the theater for a pre-planned family outing. The father, mother and four children were disappointed to find out that they had traveled in vain to see the afternoon showing of “Hotel Transylvania.” One of the daughters was using money she got from her 10th birthday to treat the whole family to the movie.
“We planned a nice little family trip here and now it’s gone,” Mrs. Arnold told the Chicago Citizen. “I feel that it’s a shame that our businesses that are owned by African Americans are closing.”
Mr. Arnold was “sad” to find out the owners were evicted for non-payment. The family used to walk to the I.C.E.-owned theater at 62nd and Western. That location was shuttered too.
“I feel that we shouldn’t always have to go to the suburban areas just to see a movie and take our children somewhere nice,” the mother said. “We need to let them know what’s in their neighborhood…a positive environment to be in and how to be entrepreneurs and grow your own community.”
According to documents available on the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s website, the owner of the Chatham theater property is 210 W. 87th Chicago TH, LLC and eviction proceedings began in March. According to the electronic docket, the Starks owe at least $725,000.
The Starks could not be reached for comment by presstime.
The couple had been praised in the African American community for bringing movie theaters back to local areas. In 1997 they opened two 10-screen theaters: the Western Avenue location and one in the Lawndale area at 3330 W. Roosevelt Road on the West Side. The Chatham location was 14 screens. The Starks said then that it was a $39 million dream fulfilled.
The Western Avenue and Roosevelt Road theaters eventually closed in 2007, but the Roosevelt Road location reopened last year. The Chatham theater did more than run movies. The venue often held community events and various organizations hosted their respective events there.
Chatham 14’s closing was sad news for Liz and Delicia Davis who were hoping Tuesday to enjoy a mother/daughter outing and see actor Tyler Perry in the film “Alex Cross.” The movie opened the same day of the eviction.
“Everybody’s having a little financial difficulty right now,” said Liz Davis. “But I hope they get it together soon.”
By Rhonda Gillespie