Ogden 6 employees pushing petition to save longtime theater in Naperville
Two employees of Classic Cinemas Ogden 6 Theatres have started an online petition to save the longtime movie house from a Costco development plan that would force it to close or relocate.
Krysten Holley and Sarah Verrey thought they'd gather about 100 signatures on their change.org request to preserve their workplace, a spot they say holds emotional memories for many guests.
Since posting the petition "Save Ogden 6 Theatre" about noon Monday, they have gathered 10,553 signatures and counting.
"We're so surprised at the amount this has spread, at the amount of people that have this dedication to try and save something so small in the city of Naperville," Holley said.
Ogden 6 has been at 1227 E. Ogden Ave. since the mid-1970s and owned by Classic Cinemas since 1996.
CEO and owner Chris Johnson said he had no idea Holley and Verrey, both employees since 2016, planned to start a petition. He said he's been floored by the response.
"I am encouraged. I think it's fantastic that people care so much," he said. "It shows there's an emotional attachment to the theater and that it's special and different and unique in its own way."
The theater would have to close or move if Costco buys the site where it rents its space at Ogden Mall on Naperville's northeast side.
The mall is anchored by an H Mart Asian grocer and the shell of a Kmart that has stood vacant for seven years. Christine Jeffries, president and CEO of the Naperville Development Partnership, said Costco plans to buy the 33-acre site, leaving in place the H Mart, a bank, a CVS and a Panera Bread on roughly 17 acres, while using the other 16 to build its second store in Naperville and a gas station.
With the help of the Development Partnership, Johnson said, he is considering other sites where he could move the theater, even visiting one further west of the site on Wednesday morning.
He said he's nervous that moving from the intersection of Ogden and Naper Boulevard would put him too close to competing theaters or too far from customers who already make the drive from Downers Grove and Westmont. But the thousands of signatures on his employees' petition provide some measure of the public's devotion.
Holley and Verrey said they were moved to start the petition to attract the attention of Costco officials and city council members by showing them how much people value Ogden 6. Reading posts on the petition site has shown how the theater combines memories, nostalgia and tradition.
"That's something people won't get from other, bigger movie theater franchises," said Holley, 21, of Naperville. "Obviously, people won't get those memories at Costco."
Verrey, 19, of Naperville, said she's already dreamed of bringing her future children to the theater where she enjoyed shows growing up, originally watching second-run movies until the screens switched to new releases after a 2018 renovation.
"It blows my mind how much emotion and the great memories people have at this theater," Verrey said. "It would be such a tragedy to let another big-name business like Costco come and demolish something like that."
A Costco spokeswoman said it is company policy not to comment on future warehouses until they are about three months from opening and details are available.
The city council is expected to begin discussions Feb. 18 about potential sales tax rebates to help offset the cost of site work Costco would need to complete to build a store, such as demolishing the former Kmart, a strip of other small businesses or vacant storefronts and the theater.