The owners of the Pickwick Theatre are making plans to finalize an agreement with a prospective tenant who will take over Park Ridge’s iconic 900-seat movie theater.
The agreement is not yet completely nailed down as of Tuesday, property manager Hubert Cioromski told Pioneer Press, but the ownership and prospective tenant have entered into written negotiations.
Pickwick co-owner Dino Vlahakis confirmed the status of negotiations Tuesday, saying “it’s in the lawyers’ hands now.”
Chicagoland residents should expect a mix of live entertainment and movies to come to the theater, said Cioromski, the managing principal of Troy Companies, the brokerage firm that manages and leases the Pickwick property. Troy Companies is negotiating the lease on behalf of the Pickwick ownership.
He added that there would be a “food component… and banquet facility potential. It should bring much more prosperity to the town.”
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The Pickwick is both a Park Ridge landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Vlahakis said he hopes to announce the new operators at the screening of the final movie under the current ownership, which will be “Gone With the Wind,” set for 7 p.m. Jan. 12.
Vlahakis and his co-owner and brother-in-law Dave Loomos first announced they’d stop showing movies out of the 1928 Art Deco building in early December. Sales just hadn’t bounced back from the pandemic strongly enough, Vlahakis said, and the stream of new pictures from moviemakers had slowed to a trickle.
The news that the Pickwick would soon show its final film catalyzed a wave of memories across Chicagoland. Across social media and networks of families and friends, suburbanites and Chicagoans mourned the impending loss of a site where many had had their first dates with their spouses, worked their first jobs or seen pivotal movies like “Star Wars” for the first time.
It also unleashed a flood of ticket sales and phone calls from people interested in taking over the movie operation from Loomos and Vlahakis, whose family has owned the Pickwick since 1967. At one point, the list of suitors contained a dozen movie purveyors and live entertainment firms.
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Vlahakis said when they announced the Pickwick would stop showing movies that he’d retain ownership of the building, which is home to 24 other tenants. Those tenants include Pazzi de Pizza restaurant and Soooo Cute Boutique, among other retail and business firms.
Even if they had opted to let go of the building, the Pickwick’s exterior structure would not have changed. The building, an “unusually well preserved” example of Art Deco architecture, has been a Park Ridge local landmark since 2010 and almost any aesthetic change to the structure is prohibited under the city’s historic preservation ordinance.
Alterations to the building would only be allowed in the event of needing to make repairs or in the event that the proposed change was a way to give the building more fidelity to its original form.
Almost any change proposed to the building would be subject to a battery of aesthetic and architectural considerations before the Park Ridge Historic Preservation Commission and would receive public input, Director of Community Preservation and Development Drew Awsumb said.