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The Lights Are Back On

Logan Theatre completes major renovation.

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Photos by Ben Macri

Logan Theater completes renovation

There are few things I like more than paying $3 to sit in a dingy theater on a dusty seat and watch a movie (that I will probably be able to get on Netflix in a month) on a big screen at the very last opportunity. I mean this in all honesty, and since theaters like the Logan are a benediction to those of us who procrastinate as seriously with getting out to see movies as we do with our reading for grad school, I was skeptical when I found out that the theater was being refurbished and reopened as a first-run cinema with comfortable seats and the requisite higher prices.

It doesn’t help that the reporter in me has difficulty not being skeptical of its ownership. The Logan facelift comes as a byproduct of its purchase by Marcus Fishman, whose name you might know from the ubiquitous M. Fishman & Co. signs posted on buildings all over Logan Square. His management company owns 16 in the neighborhood, and 10 elsewhere in Chicago. They operate out of an office on Fullerton and did not return my requests for an audience with Fishman.

All radio silence aside, the lights have been back on at the Logan Theater for a month now, and though I live just a few blocks away down Spaulding Avenue, I didn’t check out the space for myself until this week. I finally arrived on a weekday afternoon, toting groceries from the bodega next door. A pair of middle-aged men stood in the lobby eating popcorn and staring languorously at the vintage film posters lining either side of the entryway. The bar and the lobby are clean and furnished with art deco design and randomly placed palm fronds. The entire space seems like someone’s idea of a rat pack hideout, but I don’t mean this in a bad way.

Fishman has jacked up the ticket prices to $7 at the Logan Theater, which, while not $3-third-run cheap, are at least 1997-cheap, and certainly less gouging than what you’d pay at the Regal City North Stadium 14 on Western. The rumors that the theater now sells both beer and Intelligentsia coffee are true, albeit both at movie theater prices — a cup of drip coffee will set you back $4.

And while the availability of luxury goods seemed worth noting, what really struck me was the sense of anticipation among my lobby compatriots. People in the neighborhood seem genuinely excited about this new addition to our central strip, with its mix of hipster coffee shops, bars, taquerias and unmentionables like the Milshire Hotel. It’s no question that Logan Square is changing, on an almost constant basis. I know this, and I haven’t even lived in Chicago for a whole year.

North Milwaukee Avenue provides a visual barometer for the neighborhood’s extreme sense of flux, with its storefronts papering over and reopening with new additions. Uncharted Books is just one example of this, a used bookshop that brought a lone bloom into winter when it opened in January just a few doors down from the Logan.

While the journalist in me is sad to report that the theater more than met my expectations, the Logan Square resident does not mind. With summer fast approaching, an air-conditioned theater free from dancing Coke bottles and other corporate trappings beckons like an urban Midwest mirage. And it of course doesn’t hurt that the theater will be devoting one of its four screens to Wes Anderson’s new film. But for now, the Logan Theater is an art-deco-swathed reminder that living in Logan Square is sometimes like living inside of a giant construction site. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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