New five–screen movie theater coming to 53rd Street

Calmetta Coleman
Director of Communications for Civic EngagementUniversity Communications

The University of Chicago plans to bring The New 400 Theaters, an independent movie operator that will offer a mix of art, children’s and wide–release films, in the soon–to–be renovated buildings at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue.

Officials said the 10,149–square–foot theater plan includes five screens with state–of–the–art digital projection. One screening room will have tables placed between the seats for future lunch and dinner options.

The New 400 Theaters plans to discount tickets for students, seniors and children. General–admission seating will be below market prices, said theater officials.

“We believe students, faculty, staff and our neighbors will be very excited about having a new movie theater within walking distance,” said Kimberly Goff–Crews, Vice President for Campus Life. “As we talk to members of our community about how to enhance campus life, this is one of the ideas that comes up frequently.”

The agreement with The New 400 Theaters is part of a broader effort to revitalize the 53rd Street corridor as a focus of commercial, retail and entertainment activity.

Last month, the University unveiled plans to begin a major renovation of the commercial and theater buildings at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue, which are currently vacant. Five Guys restaurant, scheduled to open by year’s end, will be the first tenant. Additional tenants will be announced in the upcoming months. The University is also partnering with the City and community leaders to lead an ambitious redevelopment of the adjacent Harper Court property as a mixed–use complex.

“The theater, along with other strategic revitalization efforts, will bring added value to the area. It is one more piece of our ongoing conversations with the City and the neighborhood to build Hyde Park as a key destination on the South Side of Chicago,” said Susan Campbell, Associate Vice President of Civic Engagement.

The New 400 Theaters opened its first venue in Rogers Park in July 2009. That site, built in 1912 near Loyola University and formerly known as Village North, is one of the oldest continuously operating movie theaters in the country. Tony Fox, owner and operator of The New 400 Theaters, said the Hyde Park location was ideal due to its close proximity to the campus and the overall commitment from the community to upkeep its neighborhood.

“We are proud to bring our theater to Hyde Park, a place where people really care about their community,” said Fox. “My passion is community service, and we hope to continue in the same tradition as we have done in Rogers Park — to bring safe, reliable and sound entertainment to the area.”

Fox said his business partner, Tom Klein, will serve as general manager in Hyde Park. Klein is also the general manager for The New 400 Theaters in Rogers Park. He said they are interested in talking with Doc Films, the University student group that screens diverse films each quarter for students, faculty, staff and the community, to see if there are potential partnerships that could work in the new theater model.

The movie theater has a targeted opening date of fall 2012.