How the Portage came back
CHICAGO, IL — Just a little inside info on the Portage. Dennis who was the manager at the Gateway for over 20 years is an incredible person and the manager now. He had a vision, found people with the same vision, brought them together and as they say the rest is history, well it is, the Portage is open and doing well. How many theaters in the US can say the same thing. The funding was from a small group of investors who had the same vision as Dennis.
I worked with Dennis for over 10 years when he was managing the Gateway and been a friend of his since 1990. The most important thing to Dennis and Linda was the the theater be presented in the best light. He would would alway side step any praise. It was my distinct pleasure to work with him, even when the management at the Gateway became difficult to work with. I stayed in touch with him and when I found out he had left the Gateway and was working on the Portage, I knew it was only a matter of time and the Grand Portage Theater would reopen with all the splendor she once had.
My first time at the theater was about 2 months after things had been worked out and they were in. The interior was completely black. Someone along the line had sprayed everything black, put up a wall and called it a duplex. Too bad they got away with doing this. The garbage that was there was unbelievable. Months later visiting one weekend the transformation was remarkable, three quarters of the theater was painted and really looking great. The lobby was cleaned up, new paint, electrical working, the counter repaired. I was glad I was able to help out a bit, its hard when you are working two jobs but here and there as I could I would help out.
When the Summer Film Fest opened up it was wonderful to see so many folks at the new theater. Everyone looking around and knowing what it looked like before to now was nothing short of remarkable. As I said earlier it is amazing what can be done when people work together. I know for a fact that over time there has been a lot of help from the Chicago Politicians. Regardless of what other people have said regarding the theater and politicians they did help.
It’s hard to do all the work by yourself, I know that the Silent Film Society of Chicago is always looking for help. You ask what kind of help, come and support the shows. It could be as simple as coming down one night to help address a mailing to go out for the next show. One thing that really would help especially during the summer film fest is getting the flyers out. In the past people have hand delievered them to antique row in Chicago, this past year there just wasn’t enough time or resources (people) to get this done. The other way you can help out is by becoming a member of the Silent Film Society of Chicago, donating supplies, you ask what kind, the simple things paper, toner cartridges, envelopes, the basic office supplies that you could think of. The best was to find out what thy need is to contact the society and they can tell you.
Some day we hope to get the Wurlitzer Theater pipe organ removed from the Gateway and installed in the Portage but that’s a story for another time.