Saturday mornings at the movies! Ah,yes, I remember them well. We would get in for a quarter (yes, 25 cents and in some cases, a dime or a can of food), see cartoons, a movie or two and of course a “serial” cliff-hanger that would force us to return a week later to see if our hero saved his girlfriend. During my youth, there were many smaller neighborhood movie houses, but there were also the larger ones that had the “first run” movies. One of these in Portage Park was The Patio Theatre, a very stylish movie house designed as most were in those days with a Spanish Renaissance flavor.
The Patio was built in the 1920’s and opened in 1927 as a first run house at the corner of Austin and Irving Park, by the Mitchell family. It was a time of the big chain movie houses, but they survived. In the early 1970’s they became a second run house allowing them to keep their prices down and still give the neighborhood a movie house for entertainment, an affordable move house as this was a time for the multiplexes to open and the large theaters to cut up what was once a grand venue to smaller little boxes. The Patio never did this, leaving the 1500 seat house as grand as it was.
Over the years, as the market changed and the industry changed due to more television and larger home screens as well as video options, the smaller movie theaters found themselves unable to compete and many closed. The Patio closed and a tax sale allowed the Kouvalis family the opportunity to buy the building and in 2011 re-open it. It has been a struggle keeping it alive, but with the help of the people of the area it has been undergoing some major renovations and this large screen, comfortable movie house is back to serve the people of Portage Park, not only with movies, at a lower cost, but on occasion, a LIVE show. They also have GREAT popcorn!
Now operated by The Portage Theater Group, along with their sister theater, The Portage on Milwaukee Avenue at Irving Park, used for concerts more than movies, the neighborhood no longer has to trek to Harlem Irving for the high-priced “name brand” cineplex entertainment. they can hop a bus or perhaps walk and relax in the comfort that has been a part of Portage Park for almost 90 years.
Every week, we will feature what is happening at the movies- The Patio with show times, specials and once in awhile a contest where you can win tickets to visit this glorious movie house and take a trip down my memory lane.