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Renovated Pickwick Theatre Slated For September Debut

The city's 84-year-old art deco theater has been undergoing renovations, including new chairs and roof. In about three months, the renovations will be completed. Residents can buy theater chairs with the proceeds benefiting a local arts foundation.

The Pickwick Theatre will be fully renovated by September, debuting new seats and roof, air conditioning, electrical wiring and a refurbished exterior. 

The $1.2 million renovation is nearly finished at the art deco landmark, 5 S. Prospect Ave., in the city's uptown, said Dino Vlahakis, Pickwick's owner. 

One of the more noticeable features in the four-screen movie palace, which opened in 1928, will be new seats in theater no. 1.

Vlahakis replaced the 84-year-old seats with new ones that are 8 inches wider. They also have cup holders. While the seat covers have been changed since the theater opened, the steel frames had never been replaced, he said. 

The new frames are much wider to accommodate a larger clientele. "People have gotten bigger since 1928," he said. 

Instead of seat widths between 16 and 18 inches, the widths are now 23 and 25 inches. 

The wider seats mean 400 fewer seats in theater no. 1 since the last time the theater was refurbished in 1968 and 600 fewer seats since it first opened. 

Vlahakis donated the old seats to the Kalo Foundation's Iannelli Studios Heritage Center, 255 N. Northwest Highway. 

The foundation is selling the seats for $50 for unassembled seats and $75 for assembled seats, said Karen Larsen, the Kalo Foundation's vice president for external affairs.

Those who buy four will get a deal – $250 for the lot. Proceeds will go toward a new roof for the studio.

So far, the foundation has sold 30 with 800 left, she said. 

Residents who want to look at a chair will be able to do so starting Monday when it will be on display in a downtown storefront in the 100 block of Main Street.

To buy or inquire about the chairs, contact Larsen at (847) 824-4536. 

The Kalo Foundation, a nonprofit arts group, is renovating the landmark studio previously owned by Alfonso Iannelli, a renown artist and designer, who helped design the theater. He lived and worked in Park Ridge for about 45 years. 

Vlahakis added that patrons will likely notice the refurbished marquee. Theater workers recently removed seven layers of paint in colors including yellow, green, red, black, blue, white and orange. 

"It's unbelievable the colors that we found," Vlahakis said. 

The grand opening is expected to be sometime in September. It will likely be tied to a major movie opening night, he said. 

Vlahakis and the theater's other owners, Dave and Elaine Loomos, are paying for the renovations through tax benefits that the theater received after it was designated a national landmark in November, he said.

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