ROGERS PARK — The final credits have rolled at The New 400 Theaters, the oldest-running movie house in the city.
New 400 Theaters, 6746 N. Sheridan Road, is closed, owners announced in a Facebook post. It’s not immediately clear when the theater shut down. A resident said in a Facebook comment she’d just seen a movie there Sunday.
“Farewell Rogers Park,” the post read. “The 400 served the community for 14 years: As home base from the [Black Lives Matter] marches in [Rogers Park], as a [COVID] testing center, as a banquet facility for local businesses, charities, and homeless shelters, as a restroom for the farmers market one year, and last but not least, as a [first]-run movie theater. … Thanks to everyone who ever worked at the 400, or visited. Grateful to all.”
The company’s website says it is “currently closed but will be hosting regular private events” and that it will be showing a silent film on Sept. 12, with tickets available through The Silent Film Society of Chicago’s website.
Built in 1912, the ornate building has been a theater and movie house for the last 111 years, showcasing everything from vaudeville to first-runs of the latest releases — including this summer’s blockbuster hits “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.”
Throughout its history, the theater has been known as Regent Theater and the 400 Theater, which was a reference to catering to the most upper-crust crowds. The “400” name remained for over 65 years and in 2009, it became The New 400.
Tony Fox, a real estate investor, bought the retail building housing the New 400 in 2007. He took over operation of the theater in 2009, after its then-owner stopped paying rent for more than a year.
In March, the Loyola Phoenix student newspaper broke the news the theater was likely to close. It navigated the pandemic and reopened in 2021 to continue its streak as city’s oldest movie house, but business never rebounded from the pandemic, Fox told Block Club.
Fans flocked to the theater in an effort to keep the lights on. The Silent Film Society of Chicago hosted screenings of silent horror films and donated the majority of ticket proceeds to the 400 to try to keep it going.
But Fox said in March the droves of support still wouldn’t be enough and it was “overwhelmingly likely” he’d have to close.
“The problem is, we’ve lost too much money,” Fox said at the time. “I decided to give it a chance last year to see if [business] would come back. We did half the business we used to before COVID. Half is a very big drop.”
In addition to low attendance, other factors like increased cuts of ticket sales going to film studios, streaming services and labor costs all contributed to financial problems, Fox said.
He previously said he appreciated the uptick in business and the passion from neighbors, but he was looking to lease and then sell the building and was open to other uses.
In an email, Fox said whoever buys the building would need to afford market rent for the area.
“My strong preference is for a theater operator, but it has to be someone who knows what they’re doing,” Fox told Block Club.
The Facebook message also listed and thanked current and former employees, as well as community members, local organizations like the Rogers Park Business Alliance, 49th Ward Ald. Maria Hadden and the owners of Lincoln Square’s The Davis Theater for their support over the years.
Over the 14 years under Fox’s ownership, the theater over a million tickets and “not a single one for more than $10,” the post read.
“The Davis is the last small [first]-run neighborhood theater in Chicago, and those of you who still like small neighborhood theaters [need] to take up residence there and to eat and drink and be merry because its perpetual existence is not guaranteed,” the post said.
Fans Won’t Give Up Fight To Save Theater
Still, some locals are hoping the theater’s legacy can continue under new ownership.
Friends of the New 400, a group of about nine, said they have been in touch with multiple hospitality developers — including The Music Box, The Davis Theater, Classic Cinemas, 16” on Center, Alamo Drafthouse, Loyola University and Northwestern University — to try and persuade them to invest in the property. So far, they’ve not received a “yes.”
“Our group is really sad but motivated,” said Carolyn Minor, a Rogers Park resident for over 10 years and member of the group. “We know Rogers Park is the kind of community where we will all pull together to ensure we keep the theater and make the owner happy with the sale.”
The crew’s goal is to find a buyer who will keep the space as a theater, Minor said.
As someone who acts, writes, and produces films herself, Minor said the potential loss is especially tough on a community home to many artists and creatives.
“So many people in our neighborhood are in the arts, too,” she said. “So there’s just an affinity for funky, special, artsy places up here where we know the people who work there and are members of the community.”
The theater had undergone several upgrades in the last decade, yet the small, four-screen movie house never lost its neighborhood charm, she said. With decorative theming, class concessions, and even a small bar — that uniqueness is something that Minor said she will miss the most.
“I mean, who doesn’t like a theater steps from your house, with cheap tickets and a full concession stand including wine?” she said with a laugh.
Until any solid decisions are made, Minor said her group will continue trying to work cordially with Fox, local officials and potential new owners to preserve the building’s longstanding history as a theater.
“I know we can keep the 400,” she said. “I just know it.”
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