Supporters of the Portage Theater breathed a sigh of relief Thursday when it was announced a local church would withdraw their bid to acquire the 92-year-old cinema on Chicago’s northwest side. A hearing with the Zoning Board of Appeals had been scheduled for Friday, from which Chicago Tabernacle sought a special use permit to convert the theater into a house of worship.
The Portage is known around Chicago for its Silent Film Festival and as the set for some scenes in Public Enemies, a 2009 film about bank-robber John Dillinger. It had become somewhat of an anchor for economic development in the Six Corners business district of its Portage Park neighborhood, after a 2006 renovation pulled the aging theater out of hard times.
“Save the Portage” became a rallying cry around town when the church announced their plans in March. Roger Ebert and 45th Ward Alderman John Arena were among the many who flocked to the theater’s side. Its management applied for landmark status with the city in April.
Chicago Tabernacle is reportedly in “final negotiations” for another site, potentially a defunct movie hall at 3231 N. Cicero Ave.