Tag Archives: The Portage Theater

Mediatrocities #10– Free Media: The Manifesto of The Underground Multiplex


Legendary Lew

by Legendary Lew

Joseph R. Lewis and I were very proud to give a presentation titled “Free Media: Mending Arts When All is Broke” Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at Chicago Filmmakers.

Around 90 people attended to listen to Joe and I discuss the history of how The Underground Multiplex got started and some of the basic ideas that keep this


Joseph R. Lewis

organization going. This is an age where there’s very little money going around for the arts, so it’s imperative that artists learn a new paradigm by which they can have works created, published and distributed. It may seem daunting to be responsible for all these aspects but it can be done and we’ll tell you how to approach it.

Give a listen:

Mediatrocities #7: Legendary Lew Interviews Chris Hefner on His Upcoming New Feature “The Poisoner”

poisonerChicago filmmaker Chris Hefner recently sat down with me and talked about his new movie The Poisoner, which will debut soon at The Portage Theater (you can help him screen the film sooner by visiting his website and buying a deluxe screening ticket).

Chris is a wonderfully talented director, whose first feature The Pink Hotel had a successful debut at The Music Box Theatre. Our talk discussed everything from his filmmaking approach and his start behind the camera to current methods of radically independent film production and distribution. If you have any interest at all in making films on the cheap but have them not looking that way, you really should give a listen.

This episode hosted by Legendary Lew. Produced and directed by Lew Ojeda. The closing theme is “Ghostsong” by Daniel Knox.


Watch the Great Indie Surreal Film “The Pink Hotel” Free

Chicago’s own excellent talent Chris Hefner presents his first feature, The Pink Hotel, available now on Vimeo. If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch, as you will not see films like this one very often. If you live in Chicago, know that there are many incredible artists like Chris trying to work independently and share their great visions.

Chris will be the special guest interview on “Mediatrocities” coming up later this month. Look for it. For now, you can help him out by heading to his Etsy store and buying a ticket for the debut of his new feature The Poisoner at The Portage Theater. Support your local indie artists!

Mediatrocities Podcast #6.1: Remembering Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Lew Ojeda and Tyler Pistorius remember the influence Roger Ebert had on their lives and discuss the future of film after his passing. Included are a few choice clips of classic Ebert from his long-running classic TV series.

Local Filmmakers to Look for: Chris Hefner



Chicago’s own Chris Hefner is just about set to release his second feature-length film, The Poisoner.  Filmed in black and white, this strange tale tells of the marriage between a man and a woman forming a eerie contract. He convinces her to wed him with the intent of slowly poisoning him to death. Though the contract is agreed to, the marriage  doesn’t go as planned.

The multi-talented Hefner has had gallery showings at Finch, Heaven and MCA. He’s also collaborated with director Guy Maddin for the “Hauntings” short film series. Watch The Poisoner trailer or the feature The Pink Hotel, and you’ll definitely see the influence. He also plays a mean musical saw.

Head on over to his website for a selection of good stuff and learn how you can help him distribute The Poisoner.

The Portage Theater Threatened AGAIN, This Time by the Building’s New Owner “Eddie” Carranza

UPDATE: WBEZ reported on this earlier with Carranza’s lawyer, Thomas   Raines making this statement about a meeting he had with John Arena:

“Something happened in that meeting [Wednesday] that changed all this, and it was something the Alderman said a few times and something he did,” Raines said Sunday morning. I know that’s not much for you and I know it’s kind of cryptic and it doesn’t do much to change your story or make us look any better. But right this minute, I can’t get into it, what he did. But he did something that made us change our position.”

So in other words: we can’t tell you, you won’t understand, it’ll make us look bad anyway, but Arena did and said something terrible.

What is this, a meeting of the Freemasons? If Raines thinks the terms brought forward to him were so bad, he should make them public and not treat us like children.


When the Portage Theater building was bought a few weeks ago by the current owner of the problem-plagued Congress Theater, some in the community were already sounding the warning while others were willing to give it a chance to develop positively.

Looks like the distrusting folks might have had a point.

Alderman John Arena just put out a very stinging statement about owner Erineo “Eddie” Carranza’s attempts to evict the current operators of The Portage Theater, despite assurances this would not be done–flat out calling him a liar. Here is Arena’s statement in its entirety:

***IMPORTANT*** In an effort to keep you posted on the continuing efforts to Save the Portage theater please read the following immediately.

Just two weeks ago, I told you that I was cautiously optimistic that we could work with Erineo “Eddie” Carranza, the new owner of the Portage Theater building, to improve this community treasure and the Six Corners retail district. I now know that is not the case.

My office learned early Saturday that Mr. Carranza is threatening to evict the current operators of the Portage Theater for lack of payment of a disputed amount of back rent. This is despite assurances Mr. Carranza gave the Old Irving Park Association, the Six Corners Association, the current operators, and me that he would not make any changes to the operations at the Portage in the short term. Additionally, Mr. Carranza’s attorney on Wednesday assured the operators and me that he would not evict the operators.

In short, Mr. Carranza lied to me, and he lied to the community.

It is not clear what Mr. Carranza thinks will happen should he follow through on his threat. The current operators are the holders of the liquor and public place of amusement licenses, and those licenses stay with the operators regardless of what Mr. Carranza does.

Additionally, in light of his well-documented problems at the Congress Theater, my office has repeatedly told Mr. Carranza that I would not support his holding of any liquor or public place of amusement licenses at the Portage Theater until he could prove, through a track record of problem-free management, that he had the ability to act as a responsible venue owner and liquor license holder. His documented history of deferred maintenance, rowdy crowds, and underage drinking at the Congress is not welcome at Six Corners.

Moving forward, I will encourage the current operators to explore their legal options. I expect they will operate in the theater until all those legal options are exhausted.

In the longer term, Mr. Carranza has already shown during his short ownership of the Portage that he is not a man of his word. I was willing to give Mr. Carranza a second chance to prove he had learned from his mistakes at the Congress. It seems now that Mr. Carranza has learned nothing. I’m disappointed but not surprised.

We still have options as a community, and my office will continue to explore all available avenues to ensure that the Portage Theater meets its potential as an economic engine at Six Corners. This may take some time, and I ask for your patience and continued support as we work through this.

Other development continues at Six Corners. We still have many exciting institutions and businesses coming to the area. I will do everything possible to make sure that continues. The Portage Theater is one of the cultural, economic, and historic icons of our community. I will continue to be its ceaseless advocate.

Thank you for reading.
Alderman John Arena

You will want to head here to read the entire statement, but it’s not good. It looks like The Portage Theater and the Six Corners community is up for another fight to save the Portage Theater.

I would, seriously, contact the Portage Park Neighborhood Association and tell them you support their continued efforts to save the Portage Theater as an independent venue of entertainment–free from the ownership of those who can’t be trusted with this important landmark.

Oh, and The Congress Theater’s number is 773-276-1235. Perhaps you can POLITELY contact them and let them know you don’t appreciate Mr. Carranza’s deception. Tell him you want the theater owners to remain in the building as previously agreed and not to be evicted.

Portage Theater is Sold

Portage Park Neighborhood Association and John Arena sent out an email on the new development in the ongoing drama over The Portage Theater.  (You can read the statement here. Just scroll halfway down the column)

It’s been sold to Eddie Carranza, current owner of The Congress Theater. The  big concern with much of the community is the reputation of The Congress Theater being a community nuisance. In April, neighbors near The Congress brought complaints about the venue to City Hall. Those grievances ranged from very loud music to issues of safety, magnified by the rape of an underage teen girl near the theater on New Year’s Eve. She had been turned away from the theater shortly before the incident.

I had been reading the Alderman Joe Moreno has been working with The Congress to improve conditions there. That’s great and I really hope this cooperation comes through.

I’ve not ever attended The Congress, so I can’t comment on it, but personally, I almost wish we could learn about the improvements and their effectiveness at The Congress first, before knowing the same owners will be working on an even bigger project with The Portage. I am heartened with their stated willingness to continue having a full range of programming, including films. Hopefully, they’ll allow for the non-profit film groups to still have a home there.

Be that as it may, you can rest assured the neighbors will be watching developments like a hawk.



Chicago ZBA Set to Rule on the Future of The Portage Theater on Friday

Friday is the all-important date that determines the future of The Portage Theater. Chicago Tabernacle asked for and got an extension before a ruling by the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals. That extension expires on Friday and hopefully we can convince the Board that enough is enough.

This (hopefully final) meeting will be July 20 at 2pm at the Zoning Board of Appeals:

Zoning Board of Appeals
121 N LaSalle
Chicago, IL

This is a church that turned down other available abandoned properties in favor of taking over a functioning one.  If the Tabernacle takes over The Portage, numerous businesses set to open around the historic site will have to move elsewhere or not open at all.

The only assurances made public that I’ve ever read by the church that the sale would be beneficial were that churchgoers are local consumers, too (if that’s the case, I’ll be glad to go on a shopping spree with any of them in Fantasy Costumes before Halloween) and that they have a choir that provides entertainment.

Sorry, but these reasons don’t cut it.

The Portage Theater brings delight to the many thousands of people who’ve attended entertainment shows there. It’s one of the few remaining truly independent venues available for promoters, producers and artists. It’s a rental space open to a wide variety of interests, which brings up this point: Couldn’t Chicago Tabernacle just rent the space for a choir concert when needed?

Support this vibrant theater by joining the Facebook page, Save the Portage Theater. Go to The Portage and support them. Support the surrounding businesses and tell them you like The Portage as it is.

Come to the meeting and support this great theater! Sign this petition and share it with others. Thanks and see you there!

Zoning Board of Appeals Decision on The Portage: The Bad and the Good

More than 50 people showed up to support the Portage

The day finally came when the Chicago Zoning  Board of Appeals made a decision on the future of The Portage Theater.

More than 50 people showed up in support of The Portage Theater, a pretty good turnout for a weekday at 9am.

The ZBA took the Portage property case first, with the legal counsel of Chicago Tabernacle seeking an extension regarding the decision of the board. Citing “hardship”, the church claimed they weren’t given enough time to sort out all the particulars, especially with parts of The Portage now up for landmark designation.

A Six Corners Association rep and Alderman John Arena argued strictly along economic lines. Allowing the church to buy The Portage would stifle economic growth for Six Corners and the surrounding neighborhoods. Leases for businesses waiting to open near The Portage would be in jeopardy if the church was allowed purchase or with further delays.

The Board took note for the record that there were quite a number of people showing up opposed to the church purchase (over 50).

The bad news: ZBA decided to delay a decision on the sale of the property for 30 days (until July 20th).

The good news: This time period was half of what church counsel requested. In fact, when asked how long a delay was necessary to basically get its act together, counsel responded “oh, about a couple of months,” eliciting derisive laughter from some in the audience.

I think the ZBA was trying its best to be fair under the circumstances, but I definitely got a read that the chairman was frustrated with church counsel.  It doesn’t look good when you don’t have all “your ducks in a row” as the chairman implied and you get a significant number of people siding against you showing up.

The next ZBA hearing will be July 20th at 2pm. Mark your calendars NOW.

The chairman could not affirm that 7/20/2012 will be the absolute final date of the decision, but it seems clear he doesn’t want this dragging on indefinitely, which is what Chicago Tabernacle seems intent on doing.

This Week is Do or Die for Chicago’s Portage Theater to Be Saved From a Church Takeover –Your Help is Crucial

The final Zoning Board meeting determining the future of The Portage Theater will be held on Friday, June 15, 2012. This could determine if The Portage Theater can be saved from being purchased by a megachurch for their own use and alterations.

The Zoning Board meeting will be held:
Friday, June 15, 2012
9am at 121 N LaSalle Rm 200
Chicago, IL

If you plan to go, be sure to be ready to attend the entire day. Take the day off work if need be.  In addition, you can write to the Zoning Board using this letter and email it Alderman John Arena.

Phillip Schwartz, President of Portage Park Neighborhood Association, is trying to organize a busload of 50 people or more to attend the meeting. However, he needs to know by Monday, June 11 if he will have enough people to make this happen. Contact the PPNA at ppnainfo@gmail.com, contact them here or join the PPNA on Facebook and tell them you’d like to get on the bus.

Then, on Saturday, you can wear your sunglasses at night and help Portage Park break a world record! Bring your sunglasses for the free event at The Portage Theater, featuring singer/songwriter Corey Hart as he performs the hit tune. They’re shooting for 1300 or more fans. Yeah, it can happen.