Pandemic, redevelopment combine to close Ogden 6 in Naperville
The screens at Classic Cinemas Ogden 6 Theatres showed their final films March 16.
It's not how ownership imagined closing the longtime movie house, which sits on the future site of the second Costco in Naperville and needed to close or relocate to allow redevelopment.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the timing of the theater's expiring lease are to blame, owner Chris Johnson said.
The soonest theaters can reopen to show movies to groups of 50 people is June 26, under provisions of the Restore Illinois plan. But the theater's lease expires July 31. In between, Johnson said, it would take a couple of weeks to get up and running.
"It really didn't make sense to keep everything sitting there to, at best case, reopen for two weeks," Johnson said. "It just sadly didn't work out."
The theater played movies in the Ogden Mall shopping center since the mid-1970s, and it had been under Johnson's ownership as part of the Classic Cinemas chain since 1996. The Ogden 6 never got to have "what I'd like to call a farewell lap," Johnson said.
"It wasn't the way we wanted to go out," he said. "After 23 years, you'd like to have a better closure."
Plenty of people hoped this wouldn't be the end for the theater, which -- until a renovation in 2018 -- had been known for showing second-run films in a nostalgic environment as a cheaper entertainment option. A couple of employees in February launched an online petition calling for the well-loved theater to be saved. The petition, as of Monday afternoon, had 21,526 signatures.
Officials with the Naperville Development Partnership and the city worked to find an alternate location, and the theater showed interest in one potential site, Mayor Steve Chirico said.
The city made an informal financial offer to help offset moving costs and to "keep a family-owned business in our community -- one that we knew was important to a lot of people," Chirico said.
But the deal didn't work out, the virus struck and Johnson said closing was a sad decision but the right one for the business.
Employees of the Ogden 6 will be given the chance to work at other nearby Classic Cinemas sites, such as those in Downers Grove or St. Charles, Johnson said.
Theater employees now are working to dismantle the space, sending, for instance, the drink machines to the Tivoli theater in downtown Downers Grove, and the seats to a theater in Kankakee. Johnson said he expects the space to be cleared out by the end of the month.