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Developers Break Ground On $100 Million Regal Mile Film Studios In South Shore

Derek Dudley, producer of Showtime’s “The Chi,” is a partner in the “state-of-the-art" media campus, which aims to open in fall 2024 near 79th Street and Stony Island Avenue.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Regal Mile Studios developer Derek Dudley (in glasses) greet supporters at the studios' groundbreaking ceremony in South Shore.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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SOUTH SHORE — Developers and Mayor Lori Lightfoot broke ground Monday at the Regal Mile Studios development in South Shore, a project officials have touted as a boon to Chicago’s film industry and a way to get kids of color involved in media production.

The $100 million Regal Mile Studios project will bring a 380,000-square foot, “state-of-the-art media campus” to vacant properties at 1431-1525 E. 77th St. and on the 7700 blocks of South Blackstone, South Chicago, Harper and Stony Island avenues. The project will include 220,000 square feet of film studio space.

The Regal Mile Studios will also provide educational programs for young people, as the developers are working with Chicago Public Schools to offer opportunities in film and TV production, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) said.

The project is currently in the 5th Ward, but was redrawn into the new 8th Ward map that goes into effect in a few months.

City Council gave the project the green light in July 2021, unanimously approving a zoning change for the properties.

Developers plan to start construction later this year and open in fall 2024.

“There’s no place else on the planet like the city of Chicago when it comes to our creatives,” Lightfoot said at a press conference at the site Monday. “What we must do is make sure that we are continuing to invest in them.”

ID8 Ventures — in which Derek Dudley, producer of Showtime’s “The Chi,” is a partner — and Loop Capital Markets lead the development team. Dudley grew up on Euclid Avenue near the project site and has long dreamed of creating the studio in the community in which he grew up, he said.

“May it stand as a beacon of light — a symbol of hope — of what is possible and an inspiration to all of us,” Dudley said.

Credit: Provided
A rendering of the main Regal Mile Studios building as of July 2021, looking south from South Chicago Avenue.

Several celebrities recorded videos congratulating Dudley for the project’s groundbreaking, including rapper and actor Common — whom Dudley managed for more than three decades — and “The Chi” creator Lena Waithe. Erykah Badu, John Legend, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Jermaine Dupri and others also filmed messages.

Chance the Rapper and Common are investors in the studio, and the developers intend to bring on New York Knicks point guard and Simeon Career Academy graduate Derrick Rose as well, Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds said.

Mahalia Hines — a former Chicago Board of Education member, Common’s mother and a “second mother” to Dudley — connected Dudley and Harris upon learning of Dudley’s plans, he said. Hines and Harris are friends and neighbors, he said.

Hines “clicked over, called Alderman Harris, and within two days, I was standing on the corner of 79th and Stony Island walking the neighborhood with Alderman Harris, talking about my vision for this project,” Dudley said.

The Regal Mile Studios will bolster a Chicago film industry that “has long been at capacity,” said Roy Ashton, partner at the Gersh Agency. The studios will join the sprawling Cinespace Chicago Film Studios in North Lawndale, where “The Chi” is filmed, and an Avondale film studio proposed for The Fields campus.

“Over the last year, Chicago has served as the production center for 15 current, premiered or upcoming television series,” Lightfoot said. “… For 2022, we’re projecting more than $700 million in film production revenue. Just think about what this new campus is going to do to substantially impact and improve those numbers.”

South Shore is primed to be a hub for film in Chicago, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) previously said. In addition to the Regal Mile Studios, the Sisters in Cinema media center is planned for 75th Street and long-vacant Avalon Regal Theater at 1641 E. 79th St awaits a rebirth.

The Regal Mile site sits within an Opportunity Zone, meaning the developers will receive tax breaks for investing in a community with high rates of poverty and unemployment.

Previous estimates had placed the studio development’s costs at $60-70 million, with a planned opening date of early 2023. Lightfoot praised the project for leaning on the private sector for fundraising, as “not one penny of city money” went toward the studios’ development, she said.

The name Regal Mile pays homage to the Regal Theater, “but right now there are no immediate plans to include the Regal Theater in this development,” Dudley said upon announcing the studio plans in 2021.

The Avalon Regal Theater’s owner, Jerald Gary, has stuck to his plans to rehab the Chicago landmark he bought for $100,000 in 2014.

Joe Faust, principal of Regal Mile’s construction company Dakota Development, name-dropped the landmark theater this week ahead of the groundbreaking.

“We are also excited about expanding development beyond the [studio] campus walls to create a dynamic destination and bring back the energy of the Regal Theater,” Faust said.

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