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Thursday
Apr052012

The First Church of Celluloid

The Portage Theatre is located at 4050 North Milwaukee Avenue Chicago, IL 60641 (773) 736-4050

Help Save Chicago's Historic Portage Theatre!

UPDATE: Alderman John Arena just announced that Chicago's Landmark Commission has granted preliminary landmark status to the Portage Theatre. This is great news, but we're not out of the woods yet. If you can take just a few minutes to "like" the Portage's Facebook page and sign the letter of petition (instructions in the article), you'll go far in helping save the theatre. If you're able to write a letter to the Zoning Board, even better.

Here's Alderman Arena's statement:

"I'm happy to share a great victory with you today: The Landmark Commission just voted unanimously to bestow preliminary landmark status on The Portage Theater. This change will protect the building's facade, lobby areas and theater space from alterations until the city completes a longer and more extensive study.

This is an important step in the effort to preserve this community anchor, and I'm proud of all the work we've done in the past few weeks to get this safeguard into place. So many of you stepped up to help research the building and its history, as well as get the word out about the possible alteration of this unique slice of Chicago's past.

I also want to thank the folks at Preservation Chicago, who designated the Portage as one of their Seven Most Endangered Chicago Buildings. In addition to their support for the historical status of the theater, they also note that Chicago Tabernacle's plan to convert The Portage to a house of worship will "take it off the tax rolls and could jeopardize the nascent economic revival currently occurring at Six Corners. Despite major community opposition, the Zoning Board of Appeals will soon be considering whether to grant the church a Special Use Permit to operate in the Portage Theater space."

As Preservation Chicago wisely notes, the landmark status will protect the building, but not its use. The Zoning Board of Appeals lists Chicago Tabernacle's Special Use Permit request on their April 20 agenda, and I hope you can come out to City Hall that morning at 9 am to voice your opinion. Also, Chicago Tabernacle has now submitted the required paperwork to go through our community-centered zoning review process. We will be sitting down with church representatives next week as part of that process, and the church will present their plans to the community shortly thereafter. I will keep you posted as the situation unfolds.

Thank you for your continued community engagement."

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What does God need with a starship?

--James Tiberius Kirk

The Chicago Tabernacle Church loves movies almost as much as preaching the Word of God.

Need proof? Despite alderman John Arena's offer to help find a suitable location for their new home--including the eleven vacant churches within walking distance of the city's Portage Theatre--the organization has pushed ahead with plans to buy the building outright.

You might wonder why the congregation is interested in snatching up a ninety-two-year-old movie house that, in recent years, has hosted silent film festivals, horror marathons, and the world premiere of Evil Bong 3D. Are they a special flock of penitent cinephiles?

Sadly, no. According to pastor Al "Holy" Toledo, their plans for the Portage include removing the marquee, evicting the residents of the building's apartments, and converting the space into a full-on house of worship--complete with classrooms and staging areas for religious pageants and other Christ-approved creative endeavors. "We have art that we bring forth as well," he said, in a manner of phrasing that suggests his view of creativity is of something conjured instead of channeled.

In addition to harshing the mellow of local movie-lovers, the church's new digs would severely hamper the neighborhood's plans for economic growth. A counter proposal to transform the moth-balled loft above the marquee into a swanky jazz club (keeping the downstairs theatre intact) is on the table. Four restaurants have also expressed interest in moving into the area. Neither of these would be possible under Chicago Tabernacle's ownership, thanks in part to the wonderful church-and-state-separating law that prohibits alcohol sales within one-hundred feet of religious institutions.

Under normal circumstances, I'd suggest raising a crap-ton of money to buy out the buyers. It doesn't seem too far fetched to use social media's myriad, sticky tendrils to ask three million people for a dollar apiece. But this fight isn't about cash; it's about ideology.* Chicago Tabernacle wants the building, not the theatre. Which is why, short of applying for landmark status (the matter comes up for discussion tonight), the best that fans of classic theatres can do is make our voices be heard.

Currently, we have three avenues to work with--all viable, all important:

Start by"liking" the Save the Portage Facebook page for updates and to show support.

Then, sign this letter of petition to the Chicago Tabernacle Church and share it with friends.

Finally--and this requires the most effort--write a brief, sincere letter to Jonathan Swain at Chicago's Zoning Board of Appeals. Ask him to deny Chicago Tabernacle a special use permit for the theatre:

City of Chicago
Zoning Board of Appeals 
Attn: Jonathan Swain, Chairman
121 North LaSalle Street
Room 905
Chicago, IL. 60602

I don't get over to the Portage often. But the handful of times I've attended screenings there in the last few years, the feeling of community and the love of movies have always impressed me. More than that, they've impressed upon me the notion that a church doesn't have to involve the recitation of dogma, the snapping in two of bread, or speeches by dubious moralizers.

From any one of the theatre's thirteen-hundred seats, one can admire the classic architecture and sheer grandiosity fashioned by people who came together in the last century to give film lovers a comfortable, beautiful venue in which to appreciate art. The best movies can elevate the spirit as much as an impassioned sermon, and we're losing more and more places in which to experience films as they were meant to be seen.

Even if you've never been to the Portage, or to Chicago, or to Illinois, I implore you to join me in helping preserve this great, old theatre. And don't worry about God not getting His hands on the space: I'm sure if He reeeeally wanted to, He could figure something out.

*I think. If anyone knows a billionaire who would--for kicks or for real--offer Chicago Tabernacle, say, $20 million, I'd be very interested to see if Toledo and the rest get "moved by the Spirit" to give up the building.

Sunday
Apr012012

The KtS Interview: Adam Bartlett and John Pata

Hey, Everyone! If you've followed my Facebook/Twitter frenzy,* you know that I attended the world premiere of Adam Bartlett and John Pata's incredible new thriller, Dead Weight on Friday night. Oshkosh, Wisconsin's Time Community Theatre hosted a sold-out crowd who gave the cast and crew a fantastic reception.

After the show, I sat down with John and Adam in the balcony for a brief chat about the production of the movie and some of their influences as filmmakers. Chad Hawks of Studio Boo (formerly Chateau Grrr) is the reason you are able to see and hear what we talked about--so, big ups to him for filming and editing this piece.

Two points of interest: First, I open the interview by saying "We're back", which implies having returned from somewhere. I recorded a pre-show introduction to the interview, and grabbed a few words with the guys prior to this sit-down--all of which will be packaged in a sweet little Dead Weight Premiere piece later this week.

Second, if it looks like we're a little too cozy in that balcony, it's because there wasn't a whole lot of space to work with. One of my arms was laying on top of Adam's the entire time, bringing a new definition to the term "intimate interview". No regrets, though, kids; only cherished memories.

Congratulations for having read all this (if, in fact, you have). Please, don't forget to check out carryingdeadweight.com for more information about screenings, and Head Trauma Productions to order yourself a copy of this terrific movie.

Thanks, as always, and take care!

Wednesday
Mar142012

Turn On Your ArcLight!

Turn On Your ArcLight!

Hey, Everyone! I'm very excited to announce that Kicking the Seat has partnered with ArcLight Cinemas to bring you exclusive cast interviews for several current and upcoming films!

First up are Jennifer Westfeldt and Jon Hamm, who sat down with ArcLight's Jonathan Josell to discuss their new dramedy, Friends with Kids.

Look for many more interviews in the near future, each accessible via buttons located conspicuously (sorry, I meant "conveniently") on our homepage. Thanks again for reading, and please feel free to drop us a line with your thoughts on these terrific ArcLight conversations!

Monday
Feb132012

No Contest!

An Invitation to Show Some Love for a Perfectly Likable Fan Page

Warning: The subject of this post concerns a very powerful Web site whose promotional guidelines may or may not prohibit what I'm about to discuss. Here's my apology in advance. Now, sit back, relax, and watch me dance!

Hey, Kids! Kicking the Seat has a fan page on an insanely popular social networking site. The page itself, though, is not insanely popular. Crimes and tragedies abound!

So, here's the deal: The page currently has 50 "fans" (technically 49, 'cause I have self-esteem).

The 101st person to show his/her support by clicking the hyperlink above and pressing the button at the top of the destination screen that begins with the letter "L" and ends with the letter "e" will have crossed the threshold of Kicking the Seat's Non-promotion for the Movie Fan Page that is in No Way Officially or Unofficially Associated with any Social Networks or Corporations and Whose Alleged Prize is Neither Conditional, Guaranteed, Nor Implied ContestTM!

As threshold-crosser, this person may or may not be entitled to receive an item or items via mail whose impact upon receipt may or may not imbue the recipient with a sense of achievement best described by the popular buzz-word made famous in 2011 by a pre-career-downturn Charlie Sheen--which begins with the letter "W" and ends with the suffix "ing".

The item or items may or may not have been written on by one or more people of note, and may or may not be suitable for display. As noted in the title of this non-promotion, the item or items ("alleged prize") may or may not exist; if it/they did, it would be up to the discretion of Kicking the Seat to send it/them to the threshold-crosser via mail.

So, why even bother?

First, you or a friend/acquaintance may or may not receive something via mail (so retro!).

Second, the fan page is a great way to keep up with Kicking the Seat. Sure, there's the RSS feed, but that doesn't alert you our exclusive polls, postings and random snark!*

There's no time limit on this. I mean, I'm not running a contest here. But, please, spread the word and help Kicking the Seat cross a relatively insignificant threshold with a person who may or may not experience positive feelings when opening his/her mailbox in the future!

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. To current "fans" of the Kicking the Seat fan page, I greatly appreciate your support and apologize for your ineligibility. Actually, I suppose you could become eligible if you stopped being a fan and waited for the numbers to creep closer to 101 before jumping back in--like some radio call-in contest. But that's just silly, 'cause I'm not running a contest.

Don't worry, though, KtS will have plenty of opportunities in the future for you and/or your friends/acquaintances to possibly receive items via mail.

*Technically, the polls aren't on the fan page, in compliance with the aforementioned very powerful Web site's policy. But they're announced, with links to the actual voting.

Monday
Jan232012

The KtS Interview: Cory Udler

I'm proud to present Kicking the Seat's first interview! Last November, writer/director Cory Udler sat down with me at Crypticon Minneapolis for this spirited discussion of his life as an independent filmmaker. Chad Hawks, formerly of Chateau Grrr (and the forthcoming Studio Boo) filmed the chat, which took place in front of a live and lively audience (mostly crewmembers from Swamphead and horror host Dr. Ivan Cryptosis).

The timing of this interview is crucial: In just over fifty hours, Cory's Indie GoGo campaign for IDS Rising will close. The project will live or die by contributions from generous fans of weird, indie cinema, and every dollar counts (each donation level carries a special incentive, too).

Likely, you never aspired to an "Honorary Producer" credit on the third Incest Death Squad movie, but my hope in posting this interview is to encourage support for a truly passionate visionary--and to show those who've questioned my enthusiasm for the first two films that their creator is not a drooling, illiterate maniac.

I hope you enjoy the discussion, and I look forward to posting another sit-down in the near(ish) future.

Thanks, as always, and take care!

Update: The IDS Rising IndieGoGo campaign has ended.

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