Owner of Barrington's Catlow Theater sounds alarm about closing, then reverses course

Hours after sending a dire email warning that downtown Barrington's Catlow Theater will close unless unspecified state taxes are paid, its owner reversed course Wednesday and said the national historic landmark will remain open.

"I'm in need of immediate help," owner Tim O'Connor wrote in his initial email to his customers Wednesday. "I need to pay my state taxes by Oct 31st or the Catlow and Showtime Eatery will be shut down by the state."

O'Connor later told the Daily Herald that after consulting with his attorneys and an accountant, he can pay the Showtime taxes. He also said a solution has been found on how to keep the Catlow and Showtime open, but he declined to elaborate.

Catlow Theater LP filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Oct. 8, records show. Movie studios make up the majority of the 17 creditors listed in the federal filing, including Warner Bros. Distributing Co. at $16,471, Universal Film Exchange at $12,444, 20th Century Fox at $4,376 and Paramount Pictures Corp. at $3,815.

Documents show the Catlow's estimated assets don't exceed $50,000, with liabilities of $50,001 to $100,000.

O'Connor informed Catlow patrons in his Wednesday email that he had to share "distressing news" with them. It was the second time since March that he emailed customers about financial struggles at the 92-year-old Catlow and the connecting Showtime Eatery.

In the email. O'Connor wrote that the Catlow is falling into disrepair and there has been a lack of interest in movies at the Tudor Revival-style, one-screen theater on Main Street.

He said there have been "extreme barriers" to keeping the two businesses afloat, such as taxes, utilities, unpaid bills, salaries, insurance and legal fees stemming from lawsuits. He said he can't get a loan due to a low credit rating.

"That's the story - too many bills and not enough income," O'Connor said later Wednesday.

In May, Barrington Cultural Commission members began suggesting events and other ways to improve the roughly 500-seat theater's financial standing. The 12-member volunteer commission is a branch of village government that coordinates and co-sponsors activities like the Barrington Independent Short Film Festival that was held in May at the Catlow.

When it opened in 1927, the Catlow featured silent films and hosted vaudeville performances with stars such as Gene Autry and Sally Rand. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989.

Catlow fans came to the theater's rescue in 2012 when it launched a $100,000 online fundraising effort to pay for a digital projector required for new movie releases. The theater received 1,394 donations totaling $175,395 when the full 60-day campaign ended.

However, only $7,906 of a $40,000 goal was reached in 2017 for an all-or-nothing campaign to help pay the costs of improving Showtime Eatery. Showtime, which the village approved for a $2,642 facade improvement grant in late 2017, replaced the long-running Boloney's Sandwich Shop.

Boloney's Sandwich Shop in Barrington closing Sept. 30 But owner is opening new eatery next to Catlow Theater

Barrington gives grant to Showtime Eatery

Online campaign to help restaurant next to Catlow Theater falls way short

Silent film fundraiser to benefit Catlow Theater

Barrington cultural leaders hope to help iconic Catlow Theater

  Showtime Eatery is adjacent to the Catlow Theater in downtown Barrington. Hours after sending a dire email Wednesday that the Catlow will close unless unspecified state taxes are paid by Thursday, its owner reversed course. Mark Welsh/, 2017
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