“The New 400 Theaters navigated the pandemic and reopened in 2021 to continue its streak as the oldest-running movie house in the city. But crowds have not returned in droves to the movie theater at 6746 N. Sheridan Road. The downturn in business has all but ensured the theater has to close for good, owner Tony Fox said.
“The Loyola Phoenix student newspaper broke the news of the theater’s likely closure March 1. Since then, fans have flocked to the 400 and groups have organized to save it. But the fanfare will likely not be enough to keep the lights on, and it’s ‘overwhelmingly likely’ Fox will have to close the theater and find a new tenant, he said.
“‘The problem is, we’ve lost too much money,’ Fox said. ‘I decided to give it a chance last year to see if [business] would come back. We did half the business we used to before COVID. Half is a very big drop.’
“The New 400 Theaters opened in 1912, when the city was dotted with neighborhood movie houses. It remained in operation even as many of those movie palaces have gone out of business.
“Fox, a real estate investor, bought the retail building housing the New 400 in 2007. He took over operation of the theater in 2009, after its then-owner stopped paying rent for more than a year. Fox will soon begin a search for an entity to take over the theater space. Once the space is leased, he will likely look to sell the building, he said.
“But neighbors and movie lovers are not letting the New 400 go without a fight.
“One neighbor started the New 400 Street Team, a group dedicated to keeping the theater in business. A website has been formed that includes a page on how to help the business. More than 75 people have signed up for the group’s communications, said lead organizer Rachel Jones. The group’s first meeting is scheduled for next week.
“Another neighbor, Eric Huebner, has organized weekly movie nights with neighbors. The first group outing is planned for Thursday with the hope the weekly event can gain steam and help the theater stay in business, Huebner said.
The fans’ efforts has driven up business, Fox said. He’s even fielded some inquiries from parties interested in buying the business.
“‘I’m very grateful to the community for the good years we had,’ he said. ‘We can go out with a fizzle or out with a bang. Last weekend was more like a bang.'” (Ward, Block Club Chicago, 3/9/23)