Paito Theater films resume after repair

The Northwest Chicago Film Society will screen classic movies again at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Road, now that a boiler system dating back to 1927 has been fixed and heating has returned to the theater.

The broken boiler forced the group to move to the Siskel Film Center for the remaining portion of its season last year. Theater owner Demetri Kouvalis said at the time that the cost of repairs was $17,000 to $18,000.

The theater showed new movies several weeks after their release for far cheaper than the cost of tickets at bigger multiplexes, but Kouvalis changed the format to expand the theater’s live programming and its rental business. Kouvalis said that it is difficult for an older single-screen theater to compete with the amenities at new multiplexes.

The theater can be rented for film festivals, birthday parties, private screenings, company outings, conventions, art fairs, field trips and fashion shows. The theater features a new digital projector.

Several organizations scrambled after the closing of the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., last May to find other venues for their programs. The film society moved to the Patio then had to move to the Siskel when problems at the Patio began.

"Basically we heard that the heating was fixed and we wanted to be in the neighborhood because many of our fans are local residents," film society president Julian Antos said. Antos said that films in the current series will be screened through April and that the group then will determine what to do next.

"We are taking it a bit easy and we are not showing films every week, but we will see how that will change by the summer," Antos said.

Movies will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the Patio. The films that will be shown are "Kiss the Blood Off My Hands" on Feb. 26, "Crime Without Passion" on March 12, "Taking Off" on April 4 and "The Strange Love of Molly Louvain" on April 23. Admission is $5.

Antos said that during the hiatus from programming after the screenings ended in December at the Siskel Center, the society has been working on restoring a 35mm print of the 1956 movie "Corn’s-A-Poppin’".

"It’s this bizarre country western musical from the 1950s," Antos said. "We received a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation. They give out grants for rare films that have been orphaned, and we wanted to restore it."

The preservation grants target newsreels, silent films, documentaries, culturally important home movies, avant-garde films and endangered independent productions that fall under the radar of commercial preservation programs. The foundation reports that last year it gave out 24 grants to preserve 38 rare films.

The Patio Theater’s air conditioning system broke last spring, and the theater was forced to close in June, although the film society still showed movies there. The theater reopened in 2011 after being closed for about 10 years.

Antos said that the Siskel Center has been responsive to the group’s needs and that the screenings went well there. "Unfortunately the attendance wasn’t as great as out here because there’s just a different crowd there," Antos said.

According to the Siskel Center, the film society is a successor of LaSalle Bank Cinema, which showed classic movies from 1972 to 2010 at the former Bank of America, 4901 W. Irving Park Road, which was sold in April to a development entity that includes the owner of the Aurora-based Cermak Fresh Market.