What does future hold for Wheeling, Arlington Heights theaters?
Billed as the centerpiece of Wheeling's $110 million Town Center, the CMX CinéBistro movie theater and entertainment venue had to close just weeks after its long-anticipated opening due to the coronavirus.
Then, the Miami-based movie theater chain's parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last weekend, raising questions about whether CMX Cinemas' 41 U.S. locations -- including theaters in Wheeling, Arlington Heights and Skokie -- would reopen, even after stay-at-home orders are lifted.
But local officials on Tuesday cautioned that the bankruptcy filing is a reorganization that allows the corporation to pay its creditors over time and doesn't necessarily precipitate a permanent closure of the local movie houses.
"Of course it's challenging for Wheeling," said Marianthi Thanopoulos, the village's business development coordinator. "It was a celebrated opening, and no one ever could have anticipated this pandemic."
"But we remain optimistic," said Thanopoulos, adding that Wheeling officials haven't heard anything beyond the company's April 24 news release.
In that release, CMX officials said the bankruptcy filing, brought on by the pandemic, "will help ensure the long-term viability of our business." It said "the aim is to restructure our company while protecting our employees and to emerge in a strong and viable long-term financial condition."
That glimmer of hope of a reopening has been echoed by Wheeling village leaders, who have tied success of their 16-acre commercial and residential complex at Dundee Road and Northgate Parkway to the theater, the town center's largest tenant.
A grand opening for the 40,000-square-foot luxury movie showplace -- with seven screens, 624 seats, a full-service restaurant, and bar and lounge -- took place Feb. 14. A little more than a month later, the theater had to close under Gov. J.B. Pritzker's executive order.
"Once it's opened, we remain optimistic people will come back and enjoy a movie or bite to eat," Thanopoulos said.
Officials in Arlington Heights, where CMX operates a six-screen theater in the downtown Arlington Town Square shopping center, were more cautious about the future of their local cinema.
Michael Mertes, the village's business development coordinator, said he is aware of the bankruptcy filing but does not have confirmation as to whether or not the theater will remain closed.
"That said, we will continue to work with the company and the landlord on assisting any way we can to help the cinema reopen if and when it is able to," Mertes said.
The Arlington Heights theater formally unveiled renovations last fall, about two years after its new corporate owners took over. At the time, it marked the third ownership change in four years.
Village Trustee John Scaletta, a movie theater and shopping center management consultant whose firm used to be involved in running the theater, said he's hopeful it and other theaters will be able to reopen soon when it's safe to do so.
"The Arlington location is a viable location," Scaletta said. "I think everybody is hopeful the theater will remain. It has all the amenities of a megaplex, with the intimacy of a neighborhood movie theater."