PHOTOS: Old Chicago Theaters Give Advice to Small Businesses

Chicago is a city that's fortunate to have almost century-old theaters scattered throughout its city limits. Although some have changed hands over the years, many have succeeded at staying competitive as small businesses, even in today's economic downturn. Here's a look at some of Chicago's old theaters, how they did it.

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Rosie Powers
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Rosie Powers
An outside view of the Music Box Theatre at 3733 N. Southport Ave. Chicago is a city that's fortunate to have almost century-old theaters scattered throughout its city limits. Although some have changed hands over the years, many have succeeded at staying competitive as small businesses, even in today's economic downturn. Here's a look at some of Chicago's old theaters, how they did it.
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Rosie Powers
The main theater aisle at the Musicbox Theatre, which has been in its Wrigleyville location since 1929. David Jennings, general manager of the Musicbox, emphasized social media as a crucial way for small businesses to reach out to their customers. The Musicbox Theatre Facebook page has 11,000 fans, 8,000 of which are interactive monthly.
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The marquee of the Musicbox Theatre. “In these economic times, people want to the best dollar out of their entertainment budget,” Jennings said. “They don’t just want to go see a movie in a movieplex, they want the entire experience, something different and off the beaten path.”
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Rosie Powers
“Each business is unique, but we’ve got a niche for ourselves with certain art forms and genres,” said Dennis Wolkowicz, managing director of the Portage Theater at 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. “But you want to keep the clients warm, touch base with people. Whether you’re selling a theater, software, or pots and pans - it’s the same for everyone.”
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Rosie Powers
An inside look at the newly renovated Patio Theater. “Try to get the community involved,” said Demetri Kouvalis, general manager and CEO of the theater. “Even though your business may not be unique in the products that you sell or services you provide, try to have something unique about your business so you can maintain a relationship with your potential customers. New customers always come, but they might not come back again.”
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The entryway into the Patio Theater. Kouvalis said the building sat vacant for over a decade before renovations began on the theater. The renovations, which took place over 10 months, were tracked on the theater's Facebook page in order to advertise its beauty and gain business once the theater re-opened.
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An outside view of the Patio Theater, located at 6008 W. Irving Park Rd. The theater also used its Twitter account as a way to interact with its consumer base.
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