Portage Theater is aiming to become the premier movie house for independent films in Chicago


Known for showing classic films in recent years, the Portage Theater is aiming to become the premier movie house for independent films in Chicago.
"We’re really looking at that ‘indie’ niche," said Alex Milcarek, the new movie programmer at the 94-year-old theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. "I’ve been talking to producers in California, and there is no real presence in Chicago for independent films."

The theater will continue to work with groups such as the Silent Film Society of Chicago, but it is seeking to add newer movies, including documentaries and other films that typically do not play in first-run movie houses, to its entertainment schedule.

Milcarek said that a series of "rockumentaries" is slated for Friday evenings, including films about singer Stevie Nicks and Canadian heavy metal band Anvil. The documentary "Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes," which explores the difficulty of a candidate getting on a ballot, will be shown on Monday, Oct. 13, and "For Grace," a documentary about chef Curtis Duffy, will be shown on Sunday, Oct. 26.

Since it re-opened last June, the Portage has held rock tribute concerts, cultural events and a variety of mostly older movies, ranging from silent films to popular movies in the 1980s. "So far the feedback has been very positive," Milcarek said.

Milcarek said that the owner of the theater, Eddie Carranza, has a strong background in music and that Carranza hired him to expand the theater’s movie programming. "He knew that I had a lot of passion and film knowledge," Milcarek said.

There are long-term plans to update the theater’s movie equipment, Milcarek said. Over the last 20 years, the Portage has had several owners and at times was closed while new operators were sought.