ROGERS PARK — The New 400 Theaters has officially survived two pandemics a century apart, as the city’s oldest continuously running movie house reopens for first-run screenings Friday.
After operating as an events space and coronavirustesting center during the pandemic, the New 400 Theaters will return to regular movie screenings Friday with “Fast & Furious 9.” New 400 will begin screening Marvel Studio’s “Black Widow” July 9.
“We’ve had custodians of this place steer it through two pandemics,” general manager Scott Holtz said. “Not many places can say that.”
Friday signals a return to normalcy for the movie theater at 6746 N. Sheridan Road, which opened in 1912, just a few years before the Spanish Flu pandemic. The theater had temporarily closed or, at points, only did private movie screenings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some coronavirus-era pivots will stick around, Holtz said.
The New 400’s Theater 2 will offer private screening rentals later this year. Unable to pack theaters because of the pandemic, the New 400 instead rented out its theaters to private groups for date nights, private movie screenings or video game sessions.
The rentals helped the New 400 survive the pandemic and will remain available moving forward, Holtz said.
“We’ve done really well with that,” he said. “That’s part of the new business model.”
The theater will now be closed Mondays and Tuesdays as a way to cut down on operating expenses as it seeks to stabilize.
The New 400 Theaters was forced to close along with other movie houses in March 2020, when the pandemic swept into Chicago. It first pivoted to selling drinks and concessions and hosting patio service.
Then, it began renting out its theaters, a move that proved popular with the community.
When coronavirus restrictions tightened over the winter and caused the closure of the rental business, the New 400 stayed afloat by operating as a coronavirus testing center.
Holtz said it was “one knee jerk after another” while trying to stay in business during the pandemic. The theater also used the downtime to upgrade its facilities, including adding a new air filtration system, a lobby mural, repainted walls and new flooring in some theaters.
“It feels good,” said Holtz, who became manager of the theater in summer 2020. “I learned how to run a COVID swabbing facility, a rental facility. We’re finally doing what I was hired to do.”
To buy tickets to upcoming movies at The New 400 Theaters, click here.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: