SOUTH SHORE — Two South Side investors are planning a massive studio campus near the Avalon Regal Theater, hoping to boost Chicago’s film industry and get kids of color involved in media production.
The Regal Mile Studios would bring a “state-of-the-art media campus” with 220,000 square feet of studio space to a 6.5-acre plot in the far southwest corner of South Shore.
The development is estimated to cost $60–$70 million, with the studios set to open in late 2022 or early 2023.
The studios would be built on properties at 1431–1525 E. 77th St. and in the 7700 blocks of Blackstone, South Chicago, Harper and Stony Island Avenues, pending city approval.
Despite drawing its name from the nearby Regal Theater, the Regal Mile Studios project will not incorporate the deteriorating theater at 1641 E. 79th St., said developer Derek Dudley, who produces “The Chi” on Showtime.
The name pays homage “to the significance that the Regal has had in the community, but right now there are no immediate plans to include the Regal Theater in this development,” Dudley said.
If the Regal Mile Studios plan is successful, it would join other film studios in Chicago, including the sprawling Cinespace Chicago Film Studios in North Lawndale, where “The Chi” is currently filmed, and an Avondale film studio proposed for The Fields campus.
Dudley and Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds grew up on the South Side near the planned Regal Mile Studios site.
“This location is obviously near and dear to both of our hearts,” Dudley said. “The first thing is for this [development] … to help generate jobs and other investment into the community, and also expand the footprint of the film and television industry within the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois.”
The studio site sits within an Opportunity Zone, meaning the developers would receive tax breaks in exchange for investing in a community with high rates of poverty and unemployment.
The developers are working with Chicago Public Schools to offer educational opportunities in film and TV production, Reynolds said.
“We’re excited that this business will also be a transformative vehicle for the young people in that area and the South Side, period,” Reynolds said. “We’ll bring energy into training young Black and Brown people to work in front of the cameras and behind the cameras to learn about production right there in their own community.”
Now that the developers’ plans are public, they plan to reach out to community organizations and “figure out all the meaningful partnerships” that can benefit the studio, South Shore and the South Side, Dudley said.
Regal Mile Studios would present “an opportunity for children and people in the neighborhood to get involved,” Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said. “As creative as our young people are, this provides some exposure to different types of professions.”
The studio site is located in the 5th Ward, though Ald. Michelle Harris’s 8th Ward is less than 1,000 feet to the north, east, south and southwest of the property.
Harris’s office is open to working with the developers on future stages of the project if and when they’re finalized, said Alvin Rider, Harris’ director of community engagement.
There’s a tentative expansion plan in place, but the developers “don’t really want to talk about any specifics” about future developments at this time, Dudley said.
“We’d like to just stay focused on this Phase 1 campus,” he said. “We’re certainly prepared to expand as demand warrants.”
With the Regal Mile Studios planned along 77th Street, the Sisters in Cinema media center planned for 75th and the Regal Theater awaiting a rebirth on 79th, South Shore is primed to be a hub for film in Chicago, Hairston said.
“We are a great location, with the housing stock that we have here, the parks that we have … Stony Island makes good urban backdrops for movies and shows,” Hairston said. “You can’t have ‘The Chi’ without having the South Side.”
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