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Harper Theater to reopen with cafe

  • Harper Theater in Hyde Park.
Harper Theater in Hyde Park. (Tribune file photo )
January 19, 2012|By Katie Karpowicz, for RedEye

Nearly a decade after it last closed its doors, the Harper Theater, located at 53rdSt. and Harper Ave., will be reopening this fall as the Harper Theater & Cafe.

“[Hyde Park residents] wanted their neighborhood movie theater back,” said Tony Fox. Fox will manage the theater’s redesign and operations, even though University of Chicago actually owns the property.

“The university approached us about managing the theater after they weren’t able to find the right operator willing to work under their terms,” explained Fox who also operates The New 400 Theaters near Loyola.

Even though the theater, built in 1915, is completely hollow right now, it will soon house four screens and a café in the lobby. Future general manager Tom Klein said he hopes the addition of a café that offers coffee and wifi will create a new hangout for U of C students.

The goal of this reopening is to create a neighborhood-friendly atmosphere, but the Harper Theater’s developers are well aware of what neighborhood they’re operating in.

“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s crime on the South Side,” Fox said. “We’re trying to keep that away from us.”

That’s why the new theater will not show films that include violence. Fox hopes that by doing so, the theater won’t attract any attention from the various gangs that occupy the Hyde Park area.

“Hopefully the safe zone will start with us and push out from there.”

Instead of uber-violent action and horror flicks, future theater goers can expect to see “current big budget art movies” at the Harper.

With proceedings already in motion to obtain rights to films from Focus Features, Lionsgate, Fox Searchlight and several other top production companies, plus Fox’s hopes to one day obtain a liquor license, the Harper Theater & Cafe could very easily become one of Hyde Park’s hottest (re-)additions.

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