Trade magazine coverage of the new Portage. Via Brian Wolf.

Portage Theatre, Chicago firestorm over possible conversion to church

Trade magazine coverage of the new Portage. Via THS member Brian Wolf.

THS members Dennis Wilhelm, Biff Buttler, and Beth Eckerty have all sent this link. THS member Dennis Wolkowicz operates the Portage on lease. His good friend Jay Warren plays the hybrid electronic / theatre pipe organ there for silent films.  The story references conversion of Loew’s Metropolitan in Brooklyn to a church which THS saw on our  2002 Big Apple Conclave.

The Portage Theater is one of only a handful of independent, truly historic movie theaters still operating in Chicago. If you’ve been following Chicagoist for awhile, you know that we have a real soft spot for the movie palace, a grand place to see anything from Star Wars to silent cinema. So when we heard reports this weekend that the Portage is under possible threats of closure, you can bet we took notice . . .”

Link to the story here.

There are further links in the story above.

There is a new Facebook page for the Portage:!/SaveThePortageTheater


  1. Yikes! Among other things, why remove the marquee? Churches operate in other ex-movie palaces with the marquee in place.

  2. There’s no “firestorm” here or at the Facebook page (where one person clicked “like”). Nobody is even answering my question…..

  3. Gary Parks

    When at the THS Board meeting in January, one evening I went with fellow Board members Mike Hauser, Don Bohatka, Joe Masher, Ed Kelsey and Craig Morrison to visit both the Patio and Portage theatres, where we were spontaneously welcomed at both locations. At the Portage, a local teenage girl was celebrating her 16th Birthday, and the place was full of stylish, well-dressed fellow teens having a great time and being respectful of the place. They were partying mainly in the lobby, but the auditorium had a fog machine going, with recorded music and lighting, as if pretty soon they were going to have a dance in there. While not restored, the interior is in pretty well-maintained shape, with its Adamesque plasterwork long ago painted in rather neutral tones, and the circa 50s-remodeled lobby looks like something from a typical feature article on remodeling in a 1950s Edition of Theatre Catalog. Everything is highly restorable. If the same attention is given to the Portage that was given the former Brooklyn Metropolitan, the place will be stunning, but I agree 100% with Howard Haas–why remove the marquee?? I can understand modifying it somewhat, but why not restore it and use it for announcing church community events? Plus, in Chicago’s weather–year-round, YOU NEED MARQUEES! They are a structural necessity and courtesy for people waiting to get in the building!

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