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The Legacy of the 87th Street Theatre

a Studio Movie Grill in North Carolina

The theatre on 87th Street has served as the community theatre for 20 years and continues the legacy of its founders, Alisa and Donzell Starks.

Located at 210 W. 87th St, the Texas-based theatre franchise Studio Movie Grill is the current owner of the theater, but it began as a black-owned theatre under Inner City Entertainment (I.C.E.).

Alisa and Donzell Starks started I.C.E. which opened and built theaters in 1997 in the Englewood, Lawndale, and Chatham neighborhoods with the goal of bringing movie theaters back to the inner cities according to the History Makers.

The theatre is located two blocks away from the 87th stop on the CTA Redline and is located next to a strip mall with various restaurants, stores and other ways for people to occupy their time before their movie starts.

The theater was originally named I.C.E Chatham 14 and was utilized by many residents from nearby neighborhoods such as Avalon Park, West Chesterfield, Calumet Heights and others due to other movie theaters being much farther away.

Aaron Jackson, a resident of the Calumet Heights neighborhood, said that he appreciates going to the theater because of how close it to him.

“It was close to my house and I always enjoyed it. Even the people talking during the movies I didn’t mind. I kinda found it whimsical.” Jackson said.

The number 14 in the Chatham 14 signified the number of theaters the cinema had to offer with a variety of movies and multiple showings for the more popular films, a tradition that Studio Movie Grill continues to this day as it currently is playing the Marvel movie Thor Ragnorok in two theaters.

Not only did Chatham 14 become a sought-after location for many in the Black community to go see films, but it also hosted several independent films at their cinema including two black history documentaries from the Hidden Colors series.

Chatham 14 remained Black-owned for 15 years until the ICE Theater was evicted from the building on Oct. 19, 2012, and the theatre reopened under the ownership of Michael Silver who dropped “I.C.E” from the theater and renamed it Chatham 14.

Chatham 14 wouldn’t remain under Silver’s ownership for much longer as he ultimately sold the theater to the Studio Movie Grill franchise in 2014.

The renovations made to the theater by Studio Movie Grill replaced the standard seats in most theaters with “luxury seats,” a sports bar steps away from the concession stand which now included delivery services for orders other than popcorn, fountain drinks and the usual food sold at theaters.

Despite this change in ownership, the studio’s customer demographic has remained largely the same with majority Black and Latino patrons who have praised Studio Movie Grill for the changes made to the theater.

Christina Whitaker, an Avalon Park resident, has been going to the theater for more than ten years and says that Studio Movie Grill’s presence has made for a better movie-going experience.

“I can honestly say that the theater has gotten increasingly better. It’s close by and has good prices compared to other places,” Whitaker said.

The theatre still serves the community as Chicago Artist, Chance the Rapper, have bought tickets for residents to view African-American productions like Get Out and the more recent movie Marshall.

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