HighBeam Research

Title: New Chatham cinema execs outline economic opportunities
Date: February 27, 1997 Publication: Chicago Citizen Chicago Citizen 02-27-1997 New Chatham cinema execs outline economic opportunities The husband and wife executives of a Black owned company which is entered in a partnership to build a new multi-screen cinema in Chatham, outlined business and investment opportunities recently to local business owners. Alisa and Donzell Starks, the vice president and president, respectively, of Inner City Entertainment (ICE), which is conjunction with the Cineplex Odeon Corporation, is developing three cinemas in African-American and Hispanic communities, addressed a meeting called by a committee of the Chatham Business Association (CBA) at the Original Pancake House, 700 E. 87th St. Willie Miller, president of the CBA, explained that numerous business owners wanted to meet with the Starks to see where they could "fit in" as it pertains to possible investments and contracting for the new 14-screen movie theaters to be located at 87th and the Dan Ryen expressway. In remarks to the group, Alisa Starks, who is also a vice president and accounts director for the Burrell Communications Group, said that ICE already has sufficient capital to build the movie theater in Chatham, although, she said anyone wishing to invest in the project can do so at the level of $100,000. "We don't need extra capital at this point," said Alisa Starks. "As long as Cinema Odeon is committed to us, we don't need any other money." William "Bill" Garth, publisher and CEO of the Citizen Newspaper, said any questions relative to investing in the movie development are a "private matter." "It is improper to discuss investment opportunities," of a private company in a public forum Garth, said.

Last month, Donzell Starks reported that Cineplex had financed $9 million, and that ICE had obtained another $29 million, primarily through G.E. Capital and South Shore Bank, to build three theaters in Chicago. The Starks told the business people that an array of contracting possibilities remain open, including janitorial, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and others. The Chatham theaters, which are scheduled to be completed in November, Alisa Starks said, are the culmination of a "vision" that she and her husband have shared for several years. Having spent time researching the movie industry, and experiencing a number of setbacks, Starks said, the couple is about to realize their goal of owning a chain of movie cinemas. According to Alisa Starks, their strategy was a "bottom up effort" which would focus attention on offering African-Americans substantial employment and business participation on the theater project. To that end, the Starks have set a goal of 80% involvement in jobs and contracts for Blacks for the Chatham movie theaters. "We demanded that the general contractor had to put together a joint venture between the G.C. and the sub-contractor," said Donzell Starks. Cineplex Odeon will oversee the operation of the new theaters for up to three years, Starks said, at which time ICE will assume management duties. The official groundbreaking for all three theaters is March 15th, Donzell Starks said. A 10-screen theater is to be located at south Homan and Roosevelt Road; and a 10-screen complex will be built at 60th and WesternAve. James Handley, who formerly owned the Rhodes Theater (now demolished) and the Lyric Theater in Blue Island, has worked as a consultant to ICE to assist in familiarizing the company with many nuances and practices in the movie industry. "Timing is everything," Handley said. "They took the initiative to put their (plan) on paper and they did the research," necessary to garner such a deal, he said. Donzell Starks, in responding to accusations that he may not have been "sensitive" enough about community input on the movie project, acknowledged that may be true at times because of his concentrated "business focus." However, in an interview with the Citizen, Starks said a number of

community leaders have helped to make the Chatham theaters a reality, including Loretta Weston of the West Chatham Improvement Association; Keith Tate, of the Chatham Avalon Park Community Council, Garth, and aldermen, Jesse Evans (D., 21st) and John Steele (D., 6th). "(Weston) worked with residents in the 21st and 17th Wards, and especially senior citizens to communicate to them about giving young people an opportunity," Starks said. During the meeting, most attendees expressed praise for the progress of the movie development, although Rev. Earnest Peterson advised Donzell Starks to meet with organizations in the West Chesterfield community. Rev. Peterson said he is concerned about the level of security to be present when the theaters open. "We all want to send our kids to school, hoping that they will do (just) what the Starks have done," Steele observed. "Mayor Daley didn't want Starks, he wanted (Ervin) Magic (Johnson) and Sony (Corporation). The deal was, Starks grew up in this community." Eddie Forte, president of the Black Contractors United, said from "day one" Donzell and Alisa Starks have worked along a path of an "African-American agenda." As young Black entrepreneurs, Forte said, he, as well as the Starks have to battle on two fronts: generation, and racial. "We take it from both sides," said Forte. "We get it from older Black business persons and the White guys are kicking our butts." Tate pointed our that initially most senior citizens were against the development of a theater in Chatham because "they are afraid of young people." However, he said by insisting that quality movies and positive messages from the community be carried on the screen, Tate added, many people opted to approve of the cinema. Edward Gardner, the chairman of Softsheen Products and the owner of the Regal Theater, recommended to Donzell Starks that he would be willing to discuss converting the theater, now used to present stage and musical productions, into a movie theater. Gardner said if the theater, which formerly served as a moviehouse, were to be restructured for movies again, a vertical parking lot would have to be built. ******************************************************** Ethnic NewsWatch ¿ SoftLine Information, Inc., Stamford, CT

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