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Help save Chicago's much-loved Patio Theater

From Demetri Kouvalis of Chicago:

The time is quickly approaching where the big beast named Hollywood is forcing all theaters to upgrade to digital projectors. There have been reports and articles on this transition happening quicker than most theater owners have anticipated. The number of 35mm prints that will be produced will be cut in half by this summer, and all but gone by the end of 2012. Which puts our Chicago Patio Theater at 6008 West Irving Park Road in a very difficult situation.

The cost for a new digital projector (and the necessary installation of a surround sound system) is upwards of $70,000-$80,000. I could approach this amount without much trouble if the theater had been running for a few years already, but since we just opened in June 2010 we don't have the funds to cover such costs, or even get close to it (most of our profits have gone to fixing things such as the air-conditioning system, the heating system, our current projectors, etc…).

Are there some people I could talk to that are directly involved in community culture or the preservation of old classic buildings in Chicago, who could potentially help me raise that kind of money through some kind of program? I was thinking of starting a Patrons of the Patio Theater group in which people pay an annual fee to help maintain the building the way it is (depending how much you contribute, you would get extra benefits i.e. free tickets etc…). I'm not sure if that would count as getting "donations" because I know how difficult that is for a "for-profit" business....

The benefits of having a digital projector would be great. Not only will it benefit the theater but the community as well. With a digital projector, we would be capable of showing more classics more often, having certain nights of the week dedicated to showing certain movies (Monster Movie Mondays, Romantic Comedy Wednesdays). We can use the theater for private parties, birthdays and company get-togethers. I think the community would greatly appreciate the Patio Theater diversifying itself and giving its patrons more choices for entertainment. Unfortunately, showing second run films doesn't create enough revenue to partake in such a crucial transition, that's why I am seeking help.

Would you have any ideas or know anyone who can help me out with this predicament?

You can visit our facebook page that show pictures of the theater.

Our e-mail address is: thepatiotheater@gmail.com

Ebert: I know from many readers that they love your theater.

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