CHICAGO (CBS) — A major part of Chicago’s popular improv scene, the iO Theater, could soon have a new owner days after Second City went up for sale. Both are suffering huge losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The business has been closed for months, but only now is making the “For Sale” sign public. The sign says “Established in 1981” with memories to match.
“A lot of famous people have come through here,” said Mike Myers.
The iO Theater helped craft comic careers. It’s a pillar of Chicago’s comedy scene and another victim of the pandemic. The building and brand Charna Halpern built over decades is now up for sale.
“It’s not a coincidence every theater across the country is having a problem,” she said.
The theaters are up for sale because they are starved of box office revenue.
CBS 2’s theater critic Chris Jones said the sales of Chicago’s comedy institutions are symptoms of the arts industry relying on packed houses to pay the bills in an era when COVID-19 restrictions won’t safely allow for that.
Other businesses are trying to adapt, like a makeshift children’s theater making its home in a West Loop parking lot. Patrons park, and kids and adults enjoy drive-in entertainment through the Chicago Children’s Theater.
“Entertainment that families can enjoy together. We weren’t going to let this pandemic stop us,” said Jay Kelly.
Kelly said it is a way to keep the arts accessible and safe. It’s all outdoors with protective gear and spaced at least six feet apart.
Many arts adaptations, however, are not making up for the cash crowds used to bring in.
The iO Theater helped manufacture comedy heroes and is now looking fora hero of its own.
“If there’s someone who wants to save Chicago theater this is a great way to do it,” Halpern said.
When asked if she would like a famous alum like Steven Colbert to buy the business Hapern said she would never ask for money or a favor like that, but she clearly wants someone whose heart is into continuing the legacy.