News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Harper Theater opens this weekend

The newly renovated Harper Theater will open for business this weekend, bringing first-run movies back to Hyde Park for the first time in about 10 years.

Starting Friday, Jan. 18, the four-screen theater will feature the films Les Miserables, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty. The box office will open at 8 a.m., and the first show time will be 11 a.m., for Silver Linings Playbook.

The Harper Theater website began selling tickets online Wednesday of this week and “had sold more than 60 within the first few hours of posting,” said Tony Fox, owner of the New 400 Theaters, the company that is operating Harper Theater.

The theater, at 5238 S. Harper Avenue just off 53rd Street, includes a café that will offer a variety of food and beverage items from Chicago-based providers, including croissants from Hyde Park’s Medici café, cupcakes from the Brown Sugar Bakery in Greater Grand Crossing, and coffee drinks from North Side roaster Metropolis Coffee. The café will be open daily from 8 a.m. until the last show time.

“We want the theater to be a central place for culture and family time in the community – from date nights and family outings to a place to enjoy a great cup of coffee or a sandwich,” Fox said, adding that show times for matinees may be adjusted based on demand.

Movie ticket prices are $8 for adults, $7 for students and $6 for seniors, children and matinee shows. Fox said the New 400 plans to give away movie posters to customers who come out for the theater’s first day.

The theater opening returns a historic Hyde Park building to use. The Harper Theater building was first issued a permit in 1913. The University of Chicago, which purchased the building in 2002, announced in February 2011 that it planned to renovate and re-open the theater with the New 400 as operator. Prior to that, the building had been unoccupied for more than a decade.

The re-opening of Harper Theater also is part of a broader redevelopment effort in Hyde Park’s 53rd Street retail corridor. Development activity began with the November 2011 groundbreaking for Harper Court and has included the recent openings of new businesses such as Akira, Kilwins, Clarke’s and Five Guys.