Watch CBS News

'It's really struggling': 111-year-old Rogers Park movie theater in danger of closing permanently

111-year-old Rogers Park movie theater in danger of closing permanently
111-year-old Rogers Park movie theater in danger of closing permanently 02:05

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It could be curtains for a historic movie theater in Chicago.

It survived the pandemic, but never bounced back. CBS 2's Noel Brennan spoke to the owner who's running out of time to save the business.   

There's a fine line between film buff and movie obsessed.

"My wife stopped this, but I used to organize our Blu-Rays and DVDs alphabetically, by director."

Aaron Lawson crossed over long ago.

"I get a little obsessive about things I care about," Lawson said.

He's manager of The New 400 Theaters in Rogers Park, arguably the oldest running movie theater in the city.

"I think maybe it didn't start really operating as a regular movie theater maybe until like1912," said Lawson. "This is, like, a cool, small, affordable neighborhood theater that I would love to see stick around and I'd be really sad if it didn't."

But it's hard to keep going if an audience doesn't fill empty seats. 

"Days are numbered here, for sure."

Tony Fox owns the building and the business.

"Our business is about half of what it was before COVID," Fox said. "Now it's really, really struggling. (I'm) probably going to lease the space out to another company."

But soon, it may not be the same place that attracted generations of movie lovers.

"I had my first date with my wife here. If this place were to go away, it's really, it's a bummer," Lawson said.

It's hard to picture empty seats – suddenly full.

"(If) the crowds just start coming back tonight and tomorrow and next week and, then we'll stay open. I don't have any definite commitments one way or the other," Fox said.

Those who are movie obsessed hope for a Hollywood ending.

"We're hoping people show up and keep us going," Lawson said.

The current owner said he doesn't expect new owners to keep it as a movie theater. It could be a nightclub, bar or daycare center. 

We've got a limited run of two best picture contenders joining Creed III this weekend. TRIANGLE OF SADNESS and WOMEN...

Posted by The New 400 Theaters on Monday, February 27, 2023
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.