I was reading last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune when two articles in the Arts & Entertainment section caught my eye. The headline for the articles read, “Movies back in the Loop.” Both writers were reporting on plans to bring movie theaters back downtown.
The basic premise of both articles was that Mayor Daley was agreeing to allow a brand new multiplex theater to be built downtown on the remaining land known as Block 37. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that block, it’s the block directly across the street from the-store-formerly-known-as-Marshall-Field’s. Yes, I am one of those folks who refuse to shop at Macy’s because of the name change, but that’s a column for another day.
Anyway the articles that caught my attention were about plans now on the drawing board to bring a multiplex movie theater back downtown. Not just any movie theater-an upscale movie theater where the price of the ticket is in the $13- to $15-a-seat range.
But the price of the ticket isn’t the reason I found the articles so fascinating. It was the candidness of both writers basically saying the same thing: When a commercial movie theater returns downtown, it won’t be the kind that attracts black inner-city youths.
Also amazing that there wasn’t any “beating around the bush” in those two articles, either implied or directly stated. It seems our mayor loves black people when it’s re-election time. He also doesn’t mind using black children as his poster kids when he wants a children’s museum built underground in Grant Park. But when it comes to a movie theater in his backyard of downtown Chicago-the area of the city that is supposed to be for everyone-well, he puts his foot down. Sure you can have a movie theater, just make it something that won’t attract inner-city black youths.
What amazed me most is this: “The mayor reportedly feared a return of the ‘blaxploitation’ films that brought inner-city black youths flocking to the Loop in the 1970s. Their presence was among the factors that sent middle-class shoppers to North Michigan Avenue and suburban malls.”
Why was I so amazed at that quote? Because I agree with it!
When people don’t want your money, or don’t respect you and your money, don’t spend it with them. One of the overlooked things that one of the articles failed to remember is that those same so-called “blaxploitation” films saved Hollywood. Yes, in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Hollywood had dimmed from its glory days because of television. Many movies were poorly attended. Then Hollywood made movies about black people, and we flocked to the shows with money in hand. The revenue from films like The Mack, Shaft and others, literally saved Hollywood.
Those films also kept the downtown movie district alive as well during a period when many people believed downtown was a dead concept and that the suburbs and malls were the heir apparent replacement. But the trend changed and now downtown is the place to live, with condos sprouting like weeds and college students living in dorms all in the downtown area. Yet the business strips in the neighborhoods of the black people who went downtown and spent money and kept that area from dying is now in need of the same sort of infusion of money. And I believe that just like we saved downtown, we can do the same thing in our own community.
I believe only through business can we save ourselves and our community. If we make a commitment to do our part to shop with a quality black business, we can infuse our community with the same revitalization that every other group in this city is experiencing in their community.
Next week I will tell you more about how we can accomplish that goal.