After a decade of development, renovations of a 97-year-old Hyde Park theater will bring the silver screen to Harper Court this fall. The five-screen cinema will operate under the name “Harper Theater,” joining Doc Films in Ida Noyes as the second movie house in the neighborhood.
The theater at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue was acquired by the University 10 years ago but will be operated by The New 400 Theaters, a cinematic establishment based in northern Chicago. The theater will screen children’s and wide-release films and provide an art exhibition space.
Jack Spicer, a board member of the Hyde Park Historical Society, said that he was glad that the building was being renovated and not torn down.
“We are—and I speak for preservationists—happy that this theater has not been demolished,” Spicer said. “It’s a beautiful looking building, and it’s a vintage corner building at an intersection. Corner buildings are important, because you can see them from so many directions, so the renovation brings double the benefit.”
The theater building is 10,419 square feet and will also offer lunch and dinner. General admission will be below the market price, with additional discounts for students, seniors, and children.
Harper Theater opened in 1915 and closed in April 2002 as Hyde Park 1 & 2. In 1999 the Meridian Entertainment Group bought the theater but failed to keep it open during the following year due to tax problems within the company. In the fall of 2000, the theater reopened and ran for another year-and-a-half, but was closed again in 2002 when Meridian shut down.
Tony Fox, the owner of The New 400 Theaters, said that he was interested in talking to Doc Films about potential partnerships that would expand screening options for students.