Coming soon to theater near you: $1.5M overhaul
The Pickwick Theatre's marquee is primed and waiting for cooler weather to recieve a new coat of paint. Operators Dave Loomos and Dino Vlahakis are still deciding what colors to paint it. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 27, 2012 10:22AM
PARK RIDGE — Of all the improvements taking place this summer at Park Ridge’s Pickwick Theatre the most challenging could possibly involve the new look of the historic movie house’s marquee.
The theater’s current operators would like to paint the decorative iron in such a way that makes the intricate art deco designs and corner-mounted faces at 5 S. Prospect Ave. more visible to passersby. And restoring the marquee to the way it appeared when the Pickwick opened in 1928 would be perfect — except that no one quite knows what color schemes were involved.
The only photos business partners Dave Loomos and Dino Vlahakis have available from 80 years ago are black-and-white prints, giving little indication of the original hues.
“You can’t tell from this what colors they are,” Loomos said, pointing to a photograph in a Park Ridge history book. “If anybody has an original, colored picture of the Pickwick Theatre, please send it to us, let us know.”
The marquee, now stripped of decades worth of paint layers, is waiting for cooler weather and a decision from Vlahakis and Loomos on the color scheme, possibly one that involves typical art deco shades of red, gold, green or blue. The marquee is just one part of the Pickwick that is undergoing significant renovations this summer that, when completed in the fall, will add up to more than $1.5 million worth of improvements.
“I want this to be the best possible place to view a movie, especially Theater One,” Vlahakis said of the reason behind the ambitious renovations. “Theater One has its history. The aesthetics of the theater are beautiful. You’re in a museum.”
The Pickwick, which has been independently owned by Vlahakis and his sister, Elaine Loomos, Dave’s wife, since the early-1980s, now boasts brand-new, wider seats in the main and rear theaters, the most noticeable of all the changes. The seats, which for the first time have attached cup holders, were requested by movie-goers, the operators said.
The seats replaced what Vlahakis and Loomos learned were actually the original 1928 chairs. Though reupholstered through the years, the seats, the theater operators initially believed, dated to the 1960s and only learned their true age when they were being removed.
Because of their historic nature the Kalo Foundation is now selling some of the original seats to raise money for the Iannelli Studios Heritage Center, 255 N. Northwest Highway, and the Jeanine Schultz Memorial School of Park Ridge is planning a similar fundraiser, Loomos said.
Wider than the original 1928 chairs, the new seats resulted in the loss of just less than 500 seats in the main theater, Loomos said.
Other improvements, which are either complete, under way or about to begin, include new carpeting, floors and acoustic wall panels in the theaters; replacement of the building’s old cloth wiring; new lighting in each theater; and new ceiling tiles in the rear theaters.
The Pickwick will also welcome new technology with the purchase of a digital projection system that will keep the film looking pristine, even if it has been shown 100 times, Vlahakis reported. With the current 35-mm projector the prints can become dirty and worn due to multiple viewings, which can affect the image on the screen.
The technology will also allow one film to be shown simultaneously in all four theaters, the operators said.
Renovations to the Pickwick have been a long time coming, with Vlahakis discussing some of them for the first time with the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate in April 2011.
The reason work was able to begin this year was primarily due to the city of Park Ridge being named a certified local government by The National Park Service, Loomos and Vlahakis said. The designation has made tax breaks available to the owners of the Pickwick, which has local and national landmark designation.
“Theater One, when I’m finished with it, will be best presentation of any theater in Chicago — or equal to any theater in Chicago,” Vlahakis promised.