Thursday, June 29, 2006

Three Penny Cinema is Spent

I don't know if it was inevitable that The Three Penny independent cinema on Lincoln Avenue was going to close, but yesterday the Chicago Tribune reported (here) the doors are locked and its owner is out looking for another job.

Apparently, he owed over a hundred thousand dollars in back taxes, and they revoked his business license.

I'm always sad when locally-owned enterprises can't make a go of it in our city, but The Three Penny provided consistently unsatisfying movie experiences. And, I'm not referring to their taste in films.

The seats were like-sitting-on-a-tuna-can lumpy. The roof leaked. You could hear the movie next door when you were watching your own. The films often stopped cold in middle of your viewing, and the floors could be pull-off-your-shoe sticky. Except for the retro-y ticket booth, there was nothing charming about its interior. In fact, it was even a little creepy.

So, I'm sorry to see a small-townish cinema go, but just can't get myself too worked up over it. Au revoir, Tres Pennies.

Image from the Adam Martin collection at Find more images of the Three Penny on their site here.


Anonymous said...

You kown what they say: when one sticky, leaky, acoustically incontinent, tuna-can-lumpy theater closes, a refurbished spiffy new theater opens. See , but I'll still raise a (dribbly) glass in honor of the Three Penny. snif.
xoxo, Steve V.

Jennifer said...

Steve! Welcome, my friend. Oh, that's a wonderful story about the rescue of Portage theater.

Not surprised, though, to hear they said the biggest challenge
was keeping a positive attitude.

I'd welcome a refurbished spiffy new theater with a silent movie slant. That would definitely be preferable to a Lululemon and a nail salon.

leo said...

Well, the award ought to have gone to the "Parkway Cinema" back in the day. There was this remarkable woman who could teach Katherine Harris a thing or two about dabbing on the cosmetics -- she was the one selling the tickets.

Then when you got inside, you were never sure what you were putting your feet in when you sat down. Of course, we went there because of the double features: there'd be one movie about some chopped off head and then another about a homicidal hand.

Exciting place. Probably closed down by the Board of Health.

Peter Zelchenko said...

(I'm envisioning a huge cookie-cutter that makes perfectly shaped institutions for everyone's enjoyment.)

The city bends over backwards to find millions in tax breaks for the big guys, such as United, when they deign to enter our city. But they won't help preserve small business in a similar way. That's a real shame. It's prima facie hypocrisy.

Three Penny Cinema couldn't afford to refurbish because its costs were too high. They made a valiant effort to compete in a market that was keeping them out. They were forced to run movies in the space between "A" list movies at the Century and junk in the video market. A cartel-like control of the movie market kept them from being able to show the "A" list movies.

Thank heaven for institutions like Three Penny that offer something a little different from the norm. Personally, I was very comfortable in their theater and enjoyed the movies they showed.

Because of their problems, they couldn't pay an average of $20,000 a year for the county tax. They said they were willing to negotiate something, but the city forced them to pay everything or close their doors. The city acts as though it won, but it really lost.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, Peter, for your thoughtful comment. I don't disagree that we lose out when small movie houses like this leave the city. The loss to me is in the incrementalism of a unique venue fading rather than this particular one.

It sounds like you're advocating tax breaks for independent businesses in the city, which I think makes a lot of sense rather than allowing chains to come in a rob the local flavor even further.

You cite a Cook County tax but charge the city with foul play - please expand on your ideas on how the small business subsidies should work. Did Three Penny negotiate on these grounds? I think the Trib article said something about an entertainment tax . . .