Patio Theatre

6008 West Irving Park Road,
Chicago, IL 60634

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Showing 176 - 200 of 260 comments

Chrisk36 on April 9, 2007 at 5:47 am

I am a Chicago grandmother who took her 4 grandkids to the Patio to see movies like Lion King, etc.

I remember the reason being one of economy and of course loving the big screen and single screen theatres of days gone by. Was the minimal admission a factor in it closing? Believe it was 2 bucks in the 1990’s.

Would a higher admission have averted some of the problems? Just curious.

mp775 on March 20, 2007 at 8:15 am

The Cingular Wireless banner is gone. The marquee still says PATIO RENOVATING.

BartHalleman on March 11, 2007 at 3:36 am

is this theatre for sale or the building?

JimRankin on December 6, 2006 at 9:00 am

There is a discussion of this farther up the Comments, but, no, she was not correct. PAT-ee-o is the proper pronunciation of this Spanish word meaning ‘courtyard,’ in English context.

at1680 on December 6, 2006 at 7:17 am

I grew up in Norridge in the late 50s, early 60s. The nearest theaters were the Patio, MontClare and the Harlem-Irving outdoor theater (hard to believe there was a drive-in theater at that busy intersection!!) Anyway, my mother used to prounounce it the “pay-shee-oh” theater. Was that correct?

Broan on December 3, 2006 at 5:21 pm

Here are photos of this theater.

JimFles on November 22, 2006 at 1:24 pm

thanks much for Barton info!!!!

mp775 on November 20, 2006 at 6:23 am

I’m 99% certain the organ is still there.

JimFles on November 18, 2006 at 4:50 am

There were rumours that the Barton was sold—-broken up for parts etc. This was (or is) a fine example of the Barton product and with the popularity of the organ/silent movie venue, it could help any future operater!![ Especialy in THAT theater—WOW!!]Hope you are correct and it’s still there!!

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 16, 2006 at 5:01 pm

I looked into the lobby last night. It is in good shape, which is a pretty good indicator as to the state of the entire theatre.

JimFles on November 16, 2006 at 3:44 pm

Is the Barton still in the theater??? Anybody know??

mp775 on November 9, 2006 at 8:50 am


Is this film available anywhere? I’d love to see it!

CathyC on October 1, 2006 at 7:42 pm

Damn! Oops! S@#*! Yikes! Alright, I think it’s all out now. Where is that chimp when you need him?! Crude, I have never been called. Straight with a captial “S” is what I’ve heard most often. Doesn’t matter. I stand by my entry. The word “ignorant” implies the lack of knowledge and education, which is as inaccurate as you can get when describing the Lou Antonelli I remember. (And for the record, I am more than a “mere” woman. Jeesh!!) As far as the rest of my entry, my words were not meant for one person in particular, but for all the armchair romantics. I saw inaccuracies in the entries and, since I have a personal connection to the Patio, I became a bit irked. (Plus I knew I would get a chuckle out of Lou!) In my entries, my intentions were innocent, although, I admit my sarcasm may have been misunderstood and unappreciated. In my ingnorance, I should have replaced “ass” with “behind” or “bottom”, which I know are the choices I prefer my kids to use.

In the early 60’s, I went to the Will Rogers theater. That was my neighborhood. I remember the stage performances before the movie and the raffles. I think I won a few times. How disappointing it was to go back so many years later and see an ugly strip mall. Unfortunately, I think we all know what the inevitable fate of the Patio is. It would be grand if, as Mr. Wolf writes, “another knight like Alex can swoop in and bring it back.” At least it is comforting to know that as long as this site is in existence, all who visit will be able to read Mr. Antonelli’s tribute to the Patio and Alex K. and know that it is true and accurate. A memory to secure in a scrapbook for posterity. This in itself makes all the emotions and ruffled feathers I seem to have stirred all worth while.

I am signing off, much to the delight of many! But I will continue to return to check on the Patio and her fate. Ciao.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on October 1, 2006 at 8:38 am

Yeah, I’d have to say that Jim Rankin is one of the more astute contributors on Cinema Treasures. I don’t think he had anything but the best of intentions.

I am also a Patio fan. It is one thing when a theatre is in ruins and finally put out of it’s misery (Like the 4 Star on Madison). It is quite another when a well-maintained structure like this is destroyed. Here’s hoping that a solution can be found for the challenges now facing the Patio.

Broan on October 1, 2006 at 5:46 am

As an unbiased third party, i’d like to say that I read Mr. Rankin’s comment as the compliment it was apparently intended to be. It is possible to compliment and offer gentle criticism at the same time. It seemed clear to me that he was using the word ‘ignorant’ in its original, rarely-used sense; literally, ignoring the conventions of paragraphing. (And I think a comment like “Or were these entries of interest simply a passing of time; a break from the stale routine of manhandling the remote, eating a frozen dinner and scratching your ass?” is far cruder. It did not seem to me that he was saying it was overlong; rather that it was far more detailed than almost any post seen here.

Thank you so much for posting your vivid recollections of the Patio, Mr. Antoneli. It inspired me to drive out there yesterday in the rain to look at it and see what it would bring out in me. However, going there, I saw an unexpected sight: The sides of the marquee have been covered over by vinyl advertising banners for a local Cingular Wireless outlet! Perhaps the strangest part about this advertising display is that at the bottom is the text that has occupied the side panels for years now: advertising the “Theater Renovation” that, by all appearances, has not and is not occuring. Otherwise, the marquee remains sad and forlorn, missing its neon, bulbs, and beaten by the ravages of trucks having backed into it. Large sections of paint seem to have fallen away this winter. I really hope that marquee glows again one day. Maybe another knight like Alex can swoop in and bring it back.

JimRankin on October 1, 2006 at 2:34 am

Mr. Antonelli’s response above illustrates just why I do not comment more than I do concerning many posts on this site and others. My words have been interpreted and stretched quite beyond their original meaning and intent, and that ruins any rational hope of intelligent discourse. It seems Mr. Antonelli felt it decessary to stand up and shout a defense for a mere woman, but such bravado does not really serve anyone, don’t you see. I apologize if my choice of words irritated Mr. Antonelli, since I thought that I made it clear that I admired both the Patio and his accounts of it. Now, so as to not make more of a mountain out of a mole hill, I will drop the subject entirely and hope that voices of self-control will prevail.

Quadrama on September 30, 2006 at 11:17 pm

My God, I had no wish to open a ‘snipe’ between people by my posting detailed pieces concerning the Patio Theatre, and my involved history with same. I was under the impression (by casual glance) that this site was intended for people who have a genuine love and PASSION for Cinema, not for silly amateur ‘reviews’ – style!

I am sincerely thankful to cathy for mentioning me, and the Patio in this forum. She is neither ‘foolish’, nor ‘hasty’, Mr. Rankin! She actually shares an opinion that a great many people also feel; You do seem to enjoy using your particular style of ‘vernacular’ to stroke, then slap in the same instant. I have received a great many emails about this (from people who can personally contact me, and do not wish to have what they write be publicly available on this site) concerning your comment posted after my two ‘LONG’ posts. Some, upon viewing my reply to you, ‘read between the lines’ quite accurately and knew I gave you a good slap right back! I actually HATE all of this nonsense!
I tried my best to provide to people here something cathy selflessly wished them to have – DETAILS.

My motivations to write extensively here were not for self-promotion, nor personal gain in any way. Actually, my motivation was simple; I wished to ‘champion’ Alex K., and all he accomplished – and to expose people to ‘histories’ they could not possibly know otherwise. I was quite angered when I read your high brow response to cathy; I have not seen, nor talked to her for a great many years, but that does not mean I would hesitate to defend her, or her pure motivations and intentions. Also, do not presume what I would, or would not appreciate – actually, I would be humbled to have cathy as a ‘champion’, any day of the week!

If you really would like to know what I ‘think’ Mr. Rankin, its quite easy to get in touch with me through agents, and other avenues within the Entertainment Business. If you did so, you would hear words not found in Webster’s College Desk Reference – rather you would be privy to words I became expert in using right in the back alleys near the Patio Theatre – and I assure you, when using them I am quite VERBOSE!
Louis Antonelli, Quadrama/FILM.
(BTW – I’m OVERJOYED!! I finally learned how to ‘paragraph’ on this damn system – a small chimp named Moe came over and gave me one of those ‘Dummies’ guides! While I tried desperately not to show him how ignorant I am, he had no patience and slapped me around a while. After much abuse, I finally got it!)

JimRankin on September 30, 2006 at 2:23 am

I will accept no foolishly-sent words of shame, nor did I damn Mr Antonelli’s messages with faint praise as this hasty woman implies. The word “ignorant” is not opprobrious as many shallow people seem to think, but merely means ‘unknowning’ and people of humility all admit that there are things they do not know. Mr. Antonelli explained how his paragraphing was ruined by some computer malaise, and that was sufficient explaination for all others, or perhaps you did not notice those words. The Patio is a wonderful theatre which I once had the pleasure of visiting and I mourn its closing, but neither it nor Mr. Antonelli need any erstwhile ‘champion’ to defend them when they are not under attack. I will not dignify such petty sniping with further response.

CathyC on September 29, 2006 at 8:56 pm

Well, Mr. Rankin, I have to say shame on you! You took the time to look up the word “encomium” to possibly give Mr. Antonelli a compliment, and yet threw in the word “ignorant” the way someone masks an insult by prefacing it with an expression of praise. As far as paragraphing and being brief, it is these shortcuts and get-to-the-point attitudes that miss the true beauty in the smallest and even the largest of things. You may think that I have unleashed a beast of sorts in sending these readers to seek out Mr. Antonelli, but I think that I have given you access to a much clearer and truer history of the Patio Theater. Isn’t this what you all have been asking for? Or were these entries of interest simply a passing of time; a break from the stale routine of manhandling the remote, eating a frozen dinner and scratching your ass? If you really admire the beauty of the Patio Theater and have wonderful memories of it, then you would more than appreciate the poetry of Lou’s words and how he brings to vivid life the Patio Theater. With his magic, he took black letters on a white screen and created a three-dimensional, Technicolor short film for you. A looking glass to step into and find a wonderland on the other side. Is Mr. Antonelli verbose? Maybe. Passionate? Absolutely. But how fortunate for us readers that he took the time to prepare for us this intricate meal. Something to go back to and read and re-read and digest. Something to fill our cups up with and slowly sip and savor. It is these stories that should be kept alive and passed on through the generations because it is not only part of the history of Chicago, but of a neighborhood and of a people.

Quadrama on September 29, 2006 at 8:41 am

Dear Jim, Thank you for your kind reply about my writings concerning the Patio Theatre. Indeed, people such as Alex are that rare – but unfortunately in our REAL World (as opposed to an idealized view of the REEL one!) when one displays abundant passion, dedication, beliefs, and principles – one runs the serious risk of being hated by the masses, and is often marked for eventual ruin by same. It’s an ancient tale of warning, passed down through the millennia; to display greatness beyond ordinary ‘expectation’ brings the bearer of such gifts to the intimate gaze of the hangmen. Unfortunately (or in my view, fortunately) some people just don’t give a damn about the hangmen! People such as this are not afraid to stare back, and wink.

Lastly, I am not ignorant in any way concerning ‘paragraphing’, or any of the other rudiments of English Composition. I am in actuality an internationally published writer. I composed both of my posts to this site within this supplied comment box. Both times I wrote freely without the benefit of editing or actual thought of proper punctuation as a rule. I did however have my paragraphs well structured, but each time I went to ‘preview’ the submission this system formatted as it saw fit, totally disregarding my original.
Likely you are correct that this site does not really care for ‘long’ pieces. If I am ignorant of anything, its computers –
and many aspects of Human ‘motivations’.
Louis Antonelli, Quadrama/FILM

JimRankin on September 29, 2006 at 1:35 am

Wow! What does one say to such an encomium? I have never seen the like of the above posts on this site, maybe because men of the description of “Alex” are that rare. I guess we just have to envy Mr Antonelli’s experiences with the PATIO, since sometimes such passionately held memories are all we have. I guess he brought home to me, for one, just how tepid are my own experiences with the memorable theatres in my home town, only 90 miles north of his.

Your writing may be long for this site, and you may be almost ignorant of paragraphing, Louis, but your deep feelings are warmly contagious, and I can only say “Thanks For The Memory …” as Bob Hope so often sang, and I send my hope that you and Alex and the PATIO long endure!

Quadrama on September 28, 2006 at 10:17 pm

Hello again – I’m Louis Antonelli, and I posted a comment earlier today when I heard that cathyc. graciously had mentioned me and my long history with the Patio – I thought today, after posting my experiences with the Patio theatre that I would take the time this evening to go into more specific detail about the theatre during the Alex K. years, and my personal experiences leading up to, and finally working closely with Alex at the Patio.
Again, I have a history with that magnificent theatre well before I ever had the good fortune to meet Alex. I went to the Patio constantly during the 1960’s through the mid 1980’s (although there were instances when it was closed at intervals from the 70’s to the early 80’s).
Let’s move up to 1983 – I was a student at Columbia College and was making a film titled ‘Midnight Movie’, which story was about people who LOVED to see old scary movies in the ‘Midnight Hour’ in a darkened theater with fellow denizens of the ‘night’. I first thought to shoot the main part of the film at the old Will Rogers Theater not far away from the Patio. Well, that idea went from good to disaster when I had to negotiate with that grand old man of movie houses in Chicago, Sam Plitt, of the famous Plitt theater chain in Chicago. Sam was quite a character, to put it mildly – all the while I spoke of my film and plans for shooting at the Will Rogers, he just sat there silent and combed what little hair he had left with a 10 cent black plastic comb. I was SO naive – I talked about lights, and excitement, and making a good movie he would like, and credits, etc., finally he stopped me cold and said, ‘OK, kid – you can use the theater to shoot your movie – (I started smiling broadly!)– I’ll charge you $300.00 an hour – (I stopped smiling broadly!) – With that, 'OK Mr. Plitt, thanks for your time but I guess you missed the part of my talk when I said I’m a student and only have $200.00 TOTAL to offer you!’ Loud swearing from Mr. Plitt followed me down the hall to the downtown street. End of the Will Rogers for shooting. I turned (grudgingly!!) to the Patio, which at that time was being leased from the Simms Family by a very nice, friendly man named Evens G. I told him my situation; I needed a theater as a principal location, and again went into my entire ‘Busby Berkley’ routine as showman to close the deal I desperately needed. Even’s knew I was a 20 year old kid, but also knew I could handle everything I was telling him â€" such as bringing in close to 100 extras, blocking off the street with police assistance, lighting, set-up’s, time lines, propping, – you name it, I told him up front.
I also told him I was REALLY BROKE, and could only offer him $200.00 measly dollars for his theatre THE ENTIRE NIGHT! He agreed on the spot (to my amazement – I thought I was going to have to shoot the ‘theater’ scenes in my aunt’s basement using black drape and Roger Corman style creative blocking to make 6 people look like 100 on screen!) He had two stipulations – 1) All the extras and crew had to buy popcorn and sodas from him during the shoot, and 2) his regular movie that night (a HORRIBLE print of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’) had to go on as scheduled. I agreed as it was no problem for me to convince (aka: CON!) everyone on set to buy popcorn and sodas (I told all the extras to have NOTHING to eat or drink before the shoot because they would be doing much ‘eating and drinking’ on set!)
My problem now was a photographic one – how in God’s name was I going to get the Patio not to look like a total mess and dump ON SCREEN in my movie! I kid you not – the theater looked and smelled worse than Death! A lot of filters, lighting gels, and tin foil later (to create patterns of light on the walls) worked, and the shoot was a total success. I walked up to Evens at the end of the night and had two new $100.00 bills in my hand with a thank you card
for him from me and my film crew. He gave me big smile and said, ‘son, you really pulled all of that off, and I thought you were nuts when you first talked to me about this whole thing! – I don’t want your money; I know you can’t afford it. But I did make more money than I ever have at the candy counter because of you so that’s enough for me’. Evens was a man who had absolutely no idea how to really run a movie theater, especially one as elaborate
and complex as the Patio Theatre building! However, he had a very kind heart, and really tried his best but within a year the Patio was shuttered once again. I told all of this for two reasons – one is to illustrate just how bad the Patio had fallen before Alex came in. Second, and most importantly because there is
something ‘magnetic’ about the Patio – something that draws people of good will and spirit to it, it’s always been that way. Alex started going to see movies at the Patio way back in the early 1950’s when he was a student himself, same for Evens, and a great many other people, me included. I can’t explain in words why I have always been drawn to that particular theatre – over and over again (and at that time I had no clue as to just how big a role the Patio would eventually have in my life, and how it would forever change me – but I think the theatre knew it, don’t ask me how – but it did – those grand walls and cathedral ceilings bathed in amber light had a plan for me before I ever got there). Late 1986 came around and by this time I was traveling the world; luckily working as a film director, and most of the time on my own terms. As much as people wanted me to move to LA, or London – there was simply no way I was going to leave Chicago or the Northwest side – I loved those streets, alleys, old stores, and families that had been there countless decades. I thought correctly that ANYWHERE, and any film job was just a plane trip away so why should I leave a place that gives me so much inspiration, joy and grounding (out in the world by this point I was ‘Mr. Antonelli’, but on these street’s I was still ‘Louie’, and I loved that no one cared I was a well known filmmaker – most of the old timers I would see sitting on their porches still asked me if I would go to the corner store and get them a pack of Lucky’s – and they all still gave me the same quarter ‘tip’ I got when I was 10 years old!) Yes, all of this answers the frequent questions posted here about the area of Portage Park/Six Corners – it has changed, but only SLIGHTLY – the elder Polish/Jewish/German/Russian and Italian immigrants who have moved in over the last ten years are just as hard working, family oriented, and friendly as the ones that came before them. I may be slightly idealizing – but I’m a serious romantic so you can’t blame me for that! Sorry, I strayed from course I was on – in late 1986 Alex came to the Patio – it’s as if she was patiently waiting for him all along; a lover waiting for a lost love. Here is where I come into Alex’s life, and he in mine. I was walking past the Patio one afternoon and to my utter amazement I saw an elderly man, elderly past his actual years as that is what happens to someone who works like a bat out of Hell for decades trying to achieve MANY things. Alex was atop a REALLY big scaffold putting a delicate gold streak of paint to one section of embossed plaster trim in the grand foyer. I said to Alex – ‘HI!’, and he yelled down to me, ‘WHAT DO YOU WANT!’ That took me aback for a second, and then I replied, ‘Oh, not much – I just wanted to say hello to you and thank you for painting that’. He came down from the scaffold covered with splotches of paint, plaster in his hair, glasses specked with paint – flashed a warm smile, and shook my hand. I instantly fell in love with that man – in the way a person can love a great artist by seeing the reflection of his work and soul in his eyes – its always there if you are looking. It was a love that was never wasted, or taken for granted. Alex is a very misunderstood person; People may say he’s moody, cheap, gruff, temperamental, self-absorbed, but actually, he is one of THE KINDEST, MOST SINCERE, DEDICATED, GENEROUS, SELF-SACRIFICING, LOYAL, AND THOUGHTFUL people I have ever been lucky enough to meet and know. From that point on I regularly visited Alex, and kept up on his quest to completely (and personally) restore ‘a palace of dreams’. After close to two years of 12 hour ++ days, 7 days a week without pause – he completed his masterwork. In 1988 to walk into the Patio was akin to stepping into a master crafted, hand made, one of a kind time machine. EVERYTHING was PERFECT! Alex had missed not the slightest detail. To see his face then was to look into the eyes of a father who found a long lost child; a child that was buried in grime, dirt, lustful bodily fluids, spit, and decay – the father wadded through all of this to see his child reborn – like a blazing Phoenix, and now she stood before him on her own two feet. She was no longer crippled; rather she was dancing in the light of stained glass windows, laughing with a child’s innocent, simple joy. Yes, I saw this – the beauty of life unfolding in glory; a moment in life that can only be seen if you believe, in the unbelievable. The joy of rebirth of any grand movie palace is something we all can relate to within this forum, but that moment with Alex was a moment of such innocent purity – a moment of such CINEMA! You would have cried as I did. Alex set an opening date for his palace, and I bought the first ticket (which I still cherish), but on opening day one would have thought everyone for miles would have come to see the rebirth of this new beautiful child – back to reality though, no more than 75 people showed up. None of this mattered to Alex, he knew people would come eventually – and slowly they did, but NEVER as much as he deserved! Let’s set aside the massive physical and emotional repercussions of such a mammoth project for ONE MAN ALONE to undertake, and succeed in doing; let’s look at the fact that Alex CARED about an audience – CARED about what each person walking through the entrance of the Patio experienced. From 1988 to 2001 Alex offered true SPLENDOR, true BEAUTY, true ELEGANCE, and true authentic SHOWMANSHIP; for the small sum of $2.00! Alex wanted his palace to be open and affordable to anyone – and of course he did just that for every person who ever walked through the doors of the Patio during those years. Think about it, $2.00 – what was the last thing of quality and loving dedication you received in the last 20 years for $2.00? It was all there right on Irving and Austin – and it was ONLY there because of Alex K. He is the LAST of his line – NO ONE will do again what he did all alone, and with many people against him. He offered a ‘Dream Palace’ to all – and sincere quality, beauty, and grace – and got nothing in return but his own satisfaction of ‘having done it’ (which I know was more than enough for him!) What else did Alex achieve, well I can tell you – He demanded along with me that only the finest of film prints be shown at the Patio. You see film distributors as a practice send ‘second’ prints to ‘cheap’ theaters – what is a ‘second’ print? It’s a movie print that has errors in it such as color shifts, poor contrast, timing errors, and overall is not what the makers of the movie ever want you to see. These prints are mistakes the labs made when creating them, and they offer these copies of movies to the distributors VERY cheaply, as part of an entire print run of a movie. They do this so that they can get something for the film stock, and not have to deal with disposal. These prints are not terrible, but they are very far from the quality of all ‘standard’ prints made for a given movie (let alone the 'Master A prints’ that are saved for exhibition in Los Angeles and New York, and film festivals as a rule). Alex could not stand inferior prints, and fought to keep them out of the Patio – most times he succeeded, and went personally to pick up the films himself at the distribution depot that were shown at the Patio. I cleaned EVERY film print that came into the Patio before it was shown – and also cleaned the projectors, gates and lenses constantly. When we had ‘special films at the Patio such as 'Gone With The Wind’, or ‘The Wizard Of Oz’– which require specific gates and lenses so when projected they are seen as originally intended – not cropped, stretched, or blown up visually – we got the equipment we needed from another amazing man; Jim Bond! (Alex and I would have been in many a serious problem countless times without his help and donations to the Patio of equipment and last minute favors – God bless him!) I think you get the picture – we cared at the Patio, we cared about quality, we cared about audiences; and no one did more so than Alex. I worked with Alex many years, but I also had a demanding film career to constantly tend to. Alex offered me total freedom; freedom to train people who had some knowledge of basic projection to slowly learn the craft of Carbon Arc Projection on vintage Simplex E7 machines (these are projectors that require an operator to really be aware at all times what is being projected to the screen – maintaining the focus of light from Carbon rods, checking oil levels, maintaining visual lens focus which varies due to temperature and elements within the projection booth, etc.) I trained several people, and in no time was handling both my career and the projection at the Patio. When I was away doing a film – I called daily, both Alex, and the operators so I would know all was fine, and could also fix problems by phone if needed. Alex had that kind of faith and trust in people he knew cared as much as he did about the Patio. Again, tell me when was the last time you worked with a person like that! I am a bit bitter, and I’m sure it shows in my writing – I do not feel Alex has been given his due for all he offered, and sweated for. When I read above ‘the city will not allow the Patio to be open as long as this man owns it’, it made me wonder why in hell I love this city so much! Chicago is BLESSED to have Alex, and his rich legacy – Chicago should be proud that Alex made his mark here! I know this as a certainty – CHICAGO, CINEMA, and countless lives would not be as richly gifted without this one man. Alex, there are many of us who know what you did, and thank you from our hearts. You made our lives much richer because you are part of it. I have long since moved away from my old northwest side haunts, but when I’m in the area I always go by the Patio to see her (its that ‘magnetic’ thing I talked about earlier – that palace is just a part of me, and I a part of her!) On some of those occasions when I visit, I run into Alex, and it feels like I’m ‘home’ again. I will close by saying two things I believe to the depth of my soul – The Patio is herself a true wonder, and gift from ages past – but it took one man named Alex to transform her into a true legend. Alex, to me (and many others) you will forever be – ‘The Wizard of Austin Boulevard’!!!!
Louis Antonelli, Quadrama/FILM.

Quadrama on September 28, 2006 at 2:07 am

I was quite pleased to be told by a colleague that cathyc. mentioned me in this forum concerning the Patio Theatre. I am Louis Antonelli, and yes I am a filmmaker from Chicago who loves, and has a passion for The Patio Theatre. I first walked into that beautiful palace when I was a very small kid in the mid 1960’s. I grew up in the area of Cicero & Addison, which had many, many movie theaters ‘in my back yard’ so to speak. Growing up, I went to The Luna, Will Rogers, Gateway, Commodore, Milford, Portage, Mercury, and my favorite of them all – The Patio. During the time of my professional career in Cinema (1980 to the present) as a writer, producer & director I filmed a great many productions utilizing the Patio as a singular location. We did major Music Videos there for Atlantic – Oprah Winfrey Presents – Dramatic Opera for Italian Television – BBC & PBS Specials – and to me the most precious of all, ‘The Wizard of Austin Boulevard’, a long form film about magic, dreams, love, and passion. I’m happy to tell you that ‘Wizard’ has been continually seen and much loved by audiences around the world since it was completed in 1994. Another person who could tell you much about those times at the Patio is the outstanding Cinematographer & Actor Michael Wisnieux, who worked very closely with me on ‘Wizard’, and many other films. The Patio up until 1986 was a seriously run down, neglected place that had a forlorn look about it – as if it were hiding its face to prevent you seeing it cry. All of that changed because of one unique, amazing man named Alex K., who single-handedly restored the entire edifice and made it a true palace again in every sense of the word. Alex is one of the few, true Geniuses I have been fortunate to meet, and work with. I was indeed a Carbon Arc Projectionist at the Patio for many years, which started off as an offer to help Alex out – and wound up being one of the greatest experiences of my life. The story of the Patio (during the Alex K. years) is a marvelous journey, and a very important part of Chicago and Cinema history as it represents a time when someone REALLY cared about ‘how’ you see a movie. Alex is an idealist, pragmatist, poet, dreamer, egotist, eccentric, economist, philosopher, and staunch scientific materialist in the greatest senses of all of those terms. One who understands ‘Dreams'and 'Ideals’ as an end goal – can understand this man. He is a great contradiction (as we all are!) but is also a great romantic in the true Byronistic sense – he is stubborn, and holds firm to his beliefs which were hard won for him. He came to the USA with nothing but a suitcase, and dreams, as a 14 year old boy. To me he became a teacher, father, friend, mentor, and hard nosed advocate for my belief in ‘Dreams’ – many of which HE made possible. Cathyc. stated that Alex is ‘cheap’; that could be the view if you did not live and work day to day with this man – he was ‘practical in his impractical way’! Alex had little choice but to pinch every penny he could find, he often ‘stole’ from himself just to keep the Patio going, a week at a time – as I remember so well. To see the pain on his face when he did not have near enough to pay gargantuan electric, gas, and so many other bills bills bills bills bills – it’s actually a miracle he kept the Patio open as long as he did. I know first hand that the only reason the Patio did remain open close to 14 years after Alex restored her was by the shear will, determination, and long hours Alex put in – all mixed with his personal style that to some can seem gruff, but once you know him you realize that is only his way of projecting that he was actually angry with himself – not you. Alex is like a Producer from the Golden Age of the Cinema; he has no time for nonsense, but all the time in the world for character and ideas. Alex LIVES for ideas -and goals; He is one of the VERY FEW people in modern times who CARED how his audience saw a movie! He wanted his audiences at the Patio to have ‘an experience’ when they came to the theatre, not just simply see a movie – but EXPERIENCE IT! I am blessed; so very early in life I knew without question that I was born to make movies, and make them I have, and continue to with a fervent passion that is totally consuming and joyous – I am also VERY blessed for another reason, I am fortunate to know & love Alex K.! I share something in common with Alex – I have never ‘WORKED’ a day in my life, because when you love what you do it never can be ‘work’. (That holds true as well for the ‘work’ you do – to get to your real ‘work’– It is all part of the same process – and I lived it not only in my film career, but also at the Patio with Alex!)
Every day I was at the Patio with Alex – working with him, talking to him, sharing ideas with him – listening to him – struggling along with him – was a privilege I will never forget. I think the only true words I can give you that capture the Alex K. Patio Theatre years are these, written in 1988 and published around the world. This is, ‘The Wizard of Austin Boulevard’ – “I know a place, with electric clouds overhead – and twenty five cent lightbulbs become stars. With eyes I see, so it must be true; a dancer of light – a silver shadow who is the keeper of illusions; yours and mine. He dwells in a grand mosaic, just west of Austin Boulevard. As I enter, I realize I’m in the company of the Wizard. He shows me pictures through a glass, twenty four times a second. Tonight, it’ll be Sinatra in blacks & whites. Is this Heaven, or just another Sultan’s den of satin green and red; a devilish grin is his only reply. I pray this light won’t fade, but have hope – because the lion soon will roar. So I must hurry back, to the Arc of the Wizard, in the shrine of the Magic Lantern – and the stuff, dreams are made of. (Copyright 1988 Louis Antonelli/ARR Published by VIA & The Library of Congress ISSN/ – 1990/1994). Well, that’s about all I can say here. If you were there at the Patio during those years then you know well what I’m stating here. If you were not, I can tell you there is a great deal out there to discover from those magical times – when on an insignificant intersection on the northwest side of Chicago; DREAMS LIVED! If anyone would like to contact me about the Patio, and it’s history please feel free to do so. cathyc., THANK YOU for remembering me and my work, and for sharing it with others here – I remember you; a radiant beauty who I can still see in my mind; lit by the carbon from the E7 Projector! You made those days even more special. If you, (and also Alex) read this, I hope you both don’t mind my saying – I will always Love You.
Louis Antonelli. Quadrama/FILM

CathyC on September 4, 2006 at 9:17 pm

I forgot to mention that Louis Antonelli made a film about The Patio theater. It’s called “The Wizard of Austin Boulevard.”