Icon Theater at 1011 S. Delano Court.

“Icon” Theater in Chicago going under. Be warned.

Since we were in Chicago for the Rolling Stones on June 27 (Thursday), and went to the Sundance showing of the Luther Vandross documentary on Friday (June 28), today (Saturday, June 29th) we went to the Icon Theater located near us at 1011 Delano Court in the South Loop.

We bought our tickets on Fandango and there was no mention of the sale of the Icon to AMC. In fact, there were still tickets being sold, despite the fact that the staff—(very few of them)—working tonight said that the theater as the Icon was closing the next day at 6 p.m. Later, I read that Fandango would simply say that a future booking was “sold out” and another patron who had bought tickets for July 27th had his money refunded with no explanation.

One patron wrote:  “I had tickets for a July 27th showing of Deadpool, and I can’t make it so I went to the box office to get a refund. Lady at the register tells me, ‘Good thing you came because theater was just sold and Sunday, June 30, is the last day we’re open.’ I am devastated as I love going to the movies there. She did say that AMC had bought them, but she was unsure when they’ll open back up. If you have tickets go get your refunds.” AMC bought the Kerasotes Theaters in 2010; Kerasotes were the owners of the ShowPlace Theaters. AMC bought all but 4 Kerasotes Theaters and it was rumored that the Icon was one of the four that they did NOT buy.

So, what’s going on Icon Theater in Chicago? And why don’t they let their customers know? No confirmation that they have been bought by AMC or anyone else, but here’s something that came to my attention as I researched this:

“A movie theater in St. Louis Park (Minneapolis) is seeing a change of operations beginning of next month. Marcus Theatres announced Thursday that it will take over the Showplace ICON Theatre & Kitchen after the doors close on Sunday. The theatre will reopen to customers on July 8 as the Marcus West End Cinema.”

It was clear that things were not “right” at the Icon Theater in Chicago. We had planned to order food in the VIP section. Although we haven’t been here since wintering from Thanksgiving 2023 on in Texas, there used to be a variety of dine-in food options that were delivered to your seat. I seem to remember dining in for the last Tom Cruise outing of “Maverick.”

My spouse had been snacking throughout the afternoon and announced that he wasn’t really that hungry, so he was going to forgo ordering an entrée and just have popcorn. I had also picked up a box of Milk Duds at the grocery store, with the intention of sharing them at the movies. It’s a good thing, because—although I got my steak tacos and a Diet Coke ($24), he never did get any popcorn or any soft drink. And he tried so long that he missed the first 5 minutes of the movie.

We went upstairs and learned that the ONLY food items available for order were tacos or nachos. I asked why and got a mumbled excuse about “inventory” that made no sense. I ordered the tacos. My husband went back downstairs in search of popcorn and a soft drink.

There were two kiosks that you had to use to get popcorn. One was broken. No popcorn. No soft drink, either, when he returned to me in the VIP lounge, where I had ordered the tacos, but did not know the seats that the staff would bring them to, because that information was on my husband’s phone and he was downstairs trying to get popcorn, unsuccessfully.

The women’s bathroom on the VIP level has two rest room stalls. One was inoperative in a way that screamed “CALL A PLUMBER!”

Underground parking at the Icon Theater in Chicago's South Loop.

Underground parking at the Icon Theater in Chicago. 1011 South Delano Court.

This is a huge theater with a massive amount of parking (we were charged $11, despite the fact that it says you get 2 free hours of parking if you are at a movie. We arrived at 5 minutes of 8 and left at 5 minutes of 10, but it still cost $11 to park, which, in Chicago, is cheap—except that means that we got NO “2 hours free parking.”

Chicago’s parking situation has been deplorable ever since Mayor Richard Daley sold all of the parking in the city of Chicago. Fourteen years ago the City Council, at the urging of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, sold the city’s street parking meter system to the private company Chicago Parking Meters LLC for $1.15 billion. I may have mentioned paying $67.50 to park my car (overnight) when I went to see the play “Six.”

The upper level of the theater was almost totally deserted. I counted fewer than 10 people.

Others have said that they were told that they were closing the very next day (Sunday, June 30th). I asked one of the waitresses in the VIP area whether she still had a job with the theater. She said, “They haven’t told us, but they said we can apply for unemployment. I’m worried because that runs out after a while.” The entire “closed without warning” idea reminded of what happened with the Signature restaurant on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building, which closed so quickly and without 30 days notice that the employees are currently suing.

So, is it true that the AMC bought the ICON chain? Unlikely since they were struggling when the pandemic hit, because they had just invested a large amount in upgrading their theaters, which was a bad coincidence.

If anyone knows, tell the rest of the Chicago neighborhood, because some of us would have liked to know in advance. (This is now the second theater I have attended on its last day of operation, the first one being the Regal Theater in Moline, Illinois, where we saw Russell Crowe’s movie “Unhinged.”

Icon Theater in the South Loop on June 29, 2024, one day before its closing.

Icon Theater at 1011 South Delano Ct. in Chicago’s South Loop. (Closed on June 30th and becoming what?)

“Unhinged,” about a truck driver with road rage, was the first movie to enter wide theatrical release in the USA after the closure of most theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between the March 13th, 2020 releases of Bloodshot (2020), The Hunt (2020), and I Still Believe (2020) and the August 21st expansion of this film into 1,823 North American theaters, there was a gap of over five months with no new wide theatrical releases at all. No wonder that it killed the Moline Regal Theater.

I wonder about the cause of the Icon’s demise in Chicago? On previous visits it appeared that management was trying hard to automate everything from ticket sales to the concession stand. It wasn’t a good theater-going experience for the customer. It appeared that they were trying to scale back to a skeleton crew, much like the Steak ‘N Shake chain seems to be trying to throw the entire weight of ordering, serving and paying onto machines.

It’s a Brave New World. Tonight’s Icon experience explains why so many people are opting to watch their movies at home via streaming.