Meridian Theatres

posted by CatherineDiMartino on March 15, 2007 at 5:50 am

Hello Again.

I’d like to thank everyone who gave input on my previous post “Village Entertainment vs. Classic Cinemas.” Now I have another topic that I’d like input on.

I vaguely remember about 10 years ago that there was a cinema chain in the Metropolitan Chicago area called Meridian Theatres. As I recall, the chain did not last long at all. Could my fellow Cinema Treasures fans enlighten me on the following:

1) When did Meridian operate?
2) Why was the company founded?
3) Which cinemas were part of this chain?
4) What caused the demise of this chain?
5) Are any former Meridian Theatres still in operation as cinemas?

I’ve been having a lot of fun perusing this site since my friend and fellow CT'er Paul Fortini introduced me to it. Any information and insight you fellow CT'ers can give will be greatly appreciated!

Comments (9)

Broan on March 15, 2007 at 8:10 am

Meridian operated from May 1999-January 2001.

Donzell and Alisa Starks stated at the time that they sought to serve under-served audiences like the African-American community. They had started Inner City Entertainment in 1992, opening three multiplexes managed by Cineplex Odeon in 1996-1997, all of which still operate. They were then seeking to open sites in Gary, Charlotte, and Baltimore. When Loews and Cineplex merged, they were required to divest 11 theaters in the Chicago region. Since Meridian was not only operating in inner city neighborhoods, a new name was appropriate, implying an appeal across communities. Their prior working relationship with Cineplex contributed to their ability to acquire the theaters, and their VP of Operations was in fact the former VP of Operations for C-O’s northern and eastern divisions. In 1999, Meridian was still seeking to expand to sites in Willowbrook, Gary, and Atlanta. They were held up as the “poster couple” for minority-owned businesses by Mayor Daley, literally appearing in a publicity campaign for the Catholic school system, during which time the business fell apart.

Meridian’s eight were, in reverse order of closure and blocked to indicate simultaneous closings, Hyde Park, [burnham Plaza, Old Orchard, Water Tower (downstairs), Biograph], Bricktown Square, [broadway (Lakeshore), Water Tower (upstairs)]. I’m not sure what the eighth one was, unless they were counting the two Water Tower parts seperately.

Declining revenue and increased competition from newer multiplexes was cited as the reason. It was also being sued by at least six parties for back taxes, fees, and rent. As far as I know, the Starks family still owns theaters under the Inner City Entertainment banner, and probably the Jeffery Plaza shopping center too.

This link gives some excellent background, but will likely expire soon.

alex35mm on March 15, 2007 at 11:44 am

I was glad they picked up the original Old Orchard and kept it hanging on for just a bit longer. The same goes to say for a lot of these theaters. Hard to believe a chain could come and go so quick, They invested a lot into a couple of the theaters.

CinemarkFan on March 15, 2007 at 2:38 pm

I do remember that they couldn’t pay their taxes and they gave up after a while. They took over the Water Tower, Bricktown, Hyde Park, Burnham Plz, Biograph, Broadway and Old Orchard around April, maybe early May of 99. I remember it well too. I still have my Meridian ticket stub from when I went to the WT street level theaters in April 00. I just wish they could’ve keept the WT mall screens open a bit longer.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on March 15, 2007 at 5:19 pm


None of the cinemas that were in the Meridian Chain function as such anymore. The Broadway/Lakeshore reverted to the Lakeshore name and is now a play house. The Biograph of course is now the home of Victory Gardens Theatre. And the Water Tower became the Drury Lane Water Tower Place.

Some Meridians did re-open under the Village Theatres chain, albeit briefly. The Biograph, the Water Tower, and the Burnham Plaza come to mind, although there may have been a few more. The Burnham Plaza closed in 2005, thus making it the last ex-Meridian to function as a cinema.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on March 15, 2007 at 5:25 pm

Also, see my comments on the 600 North Michigan Theatre. Reportedly, that was to have been taken over by Meridian too, but the property owners did not believe that the company had the finances to operate such a “high-fent” property. This was probably a good thing as the 600 North is alive and well as a cinema today.

pbubny on March 16, 2007 at 8:06 am

Marcus Theatres appears to have taken over running the three Inner City Entertainment locations in Chicago (the 62nd & Western, the Lawndale 10, and the Chatham 14) although they’re listed as I.C.E.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on March 16, 2007 at 8:25 am

Typo: Should be “high-rent” property.

Broan on March 16, 2007 at 9:44 am

Marcus took over operations in 2002; ICE has always owned the theaters.

Here is an article mentioning issues with 600 North.

Here’s one on the financials.

Here is more general background.

jimpiscitelli on March 16, 2007 at 2:29 pm

The only theater runned by Meridian that I attended was the Old Orchard in Skokie. A great theater that could not be saved after the closing in late 2000.

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