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Builder of Places, Spaces & Things
Getter of Things Done
Paver of Yellow Brick Roads
Sweeps Up Popcorn
Stuff Like That
Ted Bulthaup attended both Northern Illinois University for Biology and then DePaul University for Business Administration for a total of 4 years, all on scholarships. Early education included being named to the National Honor Society and chosen President of the Senior Class at Downers Grove South High School, which is still the only graduating class to leave a surplus in the treasury. Among the many events Bulthaup managed to hire the band ‘Styx’ to perform at the high school the same month their song “Lady” hit “Number 1” on the national charts. The Class also one the Spirit Award and First Place for the Homecoming Float (which was so big it would not fit into the stadium gates).
Interested in many things, especially American History, science and nature ecology, Ted still holds the record for the most 1st Place Science Awards in the State of Illinois and, among other awards, won the International Science & Engineering First Prize for Zoology for his work on the biology of hibernating bats. Over 1,000,000 students were in the worldwide competition. He first worked with captive Vampire Bats at Brookfield Zoo in 7th grade and later had laboratory space and equipment at Argonne National Lab’s Biology Building donated for use in his work during his junior and senior years of High School.
There were also the highest possible achievement or merit awards from the following organizations: The United States Army, The United States Navy, The Science Service, The Chicago Heart Association, American Society of Medical Technologists, American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists, American Society of Clinical Pathologists, International Academy of Pathology, American Society for Experimental Pathology, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the College of American Pathologists and twice from the Illinois Medical Society. There were awards of recognition given by the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs and Illinois State University.
College scholarships were offered from North Central College and Northern Illinois University. In high school belonged to the National Honor Society, the National Audubon Society, the National Speleo-logical Society and Bat Conservation International. I was also invited to write an article for National Geographic Magazine.
Between the ages of 12 and 22, Bulthaup gained a national reputation for this work, was a guest lecturer at various high schools, colleges and even the US Naval Research Center in San Diego. Bulthaup was widely covered in local and national media. The first national television was with Frank Reynolds on the NBC evening news before he could qualify for a drivers license, and later in “Real People” with Sarah Purcell; also the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, National Enquirer, etc., and was asked to write an article about his work for National Geographic at age 18, and to locate at the Panama Research Station on Barro Colorado Island for a summer of field work.
Bulthaup was influential in inducing ComEd to donate a 212 acre tract of land to the State of Illinois for protection as a bat preserve, as it was the location of a long abandoned limestone mine that sheltered approximately 30,000 hibernating bats of six species, two of which were endangered and one is the only surviving colony of this animal in Illinois. It is now the Pecumsaugan Creek Nature Preserve.
It is worth mentioning Bulthaup had contracted rheumatic fever at age six, just after starting elementary school, being hospitalized and then confined to bed, not being allowed to walk for almost a year, home studying from bed so as not to be left behind in his education.
Ted established his first business, Caribou Productions,in Chicago while still attending DePaul University. Caribou promoted various live performance artists at various venues throughout the central United States. Examples were such artists as Cheap Trick, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Doobie Brothers, Genesis, Supertramp, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Brown, Beach Boys, Yes, Charlie Daniels, etc. Bulthaup also consulted on various historic renovations of pre-depression era movie palaces, for the purposes of restoring and converting them to performance venues, testifying before the House Ways & Means Committee on tax incentives and capital formation for historic preservation of architecture (theaters).
Bulthaup interrupted the normal course of business for several years, leaving Chicago to take care of aging relatives in Indianapolis until their death. His Grandparents were too old to live on their own, but too healthy for a nursing home. During this period Bulthaup continued efforts with preservation of old dilapidated movie palaces into live performance venues. That concept was modified to what became this country’s first full service dinner and movie theater, “Hollywood Bar & Filmworks”, built in a 130 year old warehouse in downtown Indy, next to Union Station.
Upon opening in 1991, the new theater underwent a series of trials and tribulations. Hollywood was located in dilapidated and largely vacant downtown district, at a time when Indianapolis suburbanites did not want to travel downtown; with a hybrid concept so different that nobody understood it, with an offering of only sub –run films (shortly before video), and with a mountain of short term debt. It was the first new movie theater in downtown in over 60 years and the first one to operate downtown in over two decades. Hollywood quickly became a leading regional destination point and received recognition over the years for excellence, consistently winning state, local & national entertainment and restaurant “Best of” awards in various local reader’s polls, including Downtown Indy’s Best New Addition, Indy’s Best Movie Theater, Indy’s Best Kept Secret, and as having Indy’s Best Service, Best Movie Popcorn and 2nd Best Pizza. The Restaurant & Hospitality Association of Indiana awarded Hollywood with a “Good Neighbor Award” and Hollywood was selected as having the State of Indiana’s “Best Menu”. The National Association of Theater Owners and the Hollywood Reporter named the theater as Best in Community Service & Best in Marketing in the nation. Indianapolis Monthly called the theater one of Indy’s “Crown Jewels” and also listed it as the third best place to take out-of-towners (after the 500 Mile Race and the Children’s Museum).
Bulthaup received both CEO Magazine’s “Service Excellence Award” and Mass Mutual’s/U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Blue Chip Enterprise Award” for Entrepreneurship and was the subject of a large article in the national magazine "Entrepreneur".
Bulthaup was the founding President of the Downtown Restaurant & Hospitality Association of Indianapolis and served terms on the Board of Directors of both that organization and the Theater Owners of Indiana.
Through a variety of tactics, Hollywood challenged the way films were distributed in this country, causing some fundamental industry changes including, the status of intermediate run and first-run move-over theaters and eliminating the release barrier for theaters wanting to provide expanded food and beverage selections with to-your-seat service. Hollywood in Indianapolis paved the way for this end of the industry and was generally recognized as the nation’s leading high-amenity cinema.
Among those efforts was bringing and winning an anti-trust suit against MGM. After that experience, Bulthaup became a resource for the US Department of Justice on industry anti-trust issues and the 1949 Paramount Consent Decree, most recently testifying before the legal committee on the merger of Chicago based Show Place Cinemas and AMC; after which AMC was ordered to divest several Chicago area theaters (which they sold to Regal. (In the last decade, Bulthaup testified by request of the State of Illinois on their behalf in front of several standing State Committees, from both the House and Senate, and the US Treasury Department.)
The Indianapolis operation had always enjoyed a great reputation for excellence. Disney approached Bulthaup about building a theater like the Filmworks at Epcot. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, General Cinema experimented with a copycat operation and several second rate imitators spawned following Indy’s success. Hollywood Indy was the only local recommendation as a great place to visit named in USA Today during the Final Four Conference in Indianapolis. MS*NBC focused on Filmworks not only as a unique theater, but what great value it delivers compared to New York City cinema’s. LA Sports talk radio broadcasted live from the theater “Hollywood to Hollywood” when the Pacers were in the NBA playoffs against the Lakers. Warner Bros offered Bulthaup a job as National Director of Special Projects (Marketing) if he would sell the Indy location and move to LA.
During this period Bulthaup’s house burned down early Thanksgiving morning, almost taking the life of several children who Ted pulled out of his flaming house. Trapped by the flames he threw one child through the burning kitchen into a clear area near the front door. Running back upstairs, grabbing the last child, he kicked out a second floor window; went out on the roof, swinging his daughter into a bush before jumping himself. Ted asked a friend who was the human interest reporter on the local CBS affiliate to tour the burnt out shell live-on-air as the aftermaths of house fires are seldom covered by media. The segments were later nominated for a local Emmy. Bulthaup later filmed a PSA to run before children’s movies at the theater with the help of local fire prevention officials. NATO recognized the Hollywood’s Kids Fire Safety Program for its annual “Community Service Award”.
The City of Indianapolis created a huge downtown mess starting with the long construction of the Circle Centre Mall; followed by the negative affect of a new professional basketball arena being developed in the heart of downtown. The subsequent hyper-inflation of neighborhood parking rates during special events became a severe challenge to all downtown restaurant and entertainment operations. Suddenly, after Hollywood enjoyed years of success, downtown parking rates inflated by 735% on over 100 event nights per year due to the close proximity of the new Conseco Fieldhouse. Of the businesses that signed a petition to the Mayor, two thirds were soon driven out of business citing the new parking dynamic as the number one problem. The local Mayor continued to embrace anti-small business practices and then even doubled already harmful restaurant taxes to buy the Colts a new arena and so on the Hollywood Bar & Filmworks 15th Anniversary, Bulthaup voluntarily closed the Indianapolis location.
All local loans and debts of any kind were voluntarily paid in full to all, secured and unsecured creditors alike, and the assets were moved to Illinois for later use in one of Hollywood Blvd Cinema’s expansions. Even so, in the last year of operation, Hollywood Bar & Filmworks was listed in the Indianapolis Business Journal as the 8th fasted growing company in Indy.
This wreckage was all due to local governments reckless and uncaring actions, lying to the public, quashing dissent on this and related issues. Exposures led by Ted later helped cost the Mayor his Office and later his cronies were prevented from winning their office for from their third consecutive term. Bulthaup also saved the City some $55 million dollars by disclosing the facts of his theaters and the other businesses closures and showing the local NBA team was just the opposite of the economic powerhouse for Indianapolis that the City and the Pacers pretended it to be, and that was it unworthy of further public subsidy. Regardless, his Indianapolis business was a total loss to Bulthaup and his family. It was a very family oriented business and one young employee even committed suicide due to losing her family to the closure of that business.
The Indianapolis City Council passed a “Posthumous” resolution the day after the theaters closure, saying the theater was one of the city’s greatest assets and even called Bulthaup one of the “iron men” and “visionaries” of downtown’s resurgence. A 2015 news article listed the top ten things that are missed in Indianapolis and the likes of which will never be seen again. Hollywood was on the list.
Hollywood Blvd Cinema opened in Woodridge, Illinois on March 2nd of 2003 as the exit strategy from Indiana but also under trying circumstances. After construction was three/fourths complete, building inspectors for the first time demanded that the entire facility be brought up to code, not just the new construction as the code reads. This necessitated a three month delay, postponing the Grand Opening and causing the heavy Christmas movie going season to be missed. The rescheduled Grand Opening coincided with the declaration of war on Iraq which focused the nation’s attention, especially the media, on their small screen televisions. With the additional demanded upgrades and due to these circumstances, there was an immediate cash shortfall of about one million dollars.
Hollywood Blvd was named by Chicago Magazine as “Best Cinema” in its first year of operation, beating out the new $30,000,000 AMC/Imax downtown. Hollywood Blvd was the only theater to receive an “A+” rating by the Chicago Sun Times and was also named as one of the nation’s top ten new concepts by Restaurant Business Magazine. The operation again received recognitions as the nation’s best marketed theater several times by the Hollywood Reporter with National Association of Theater Owners, and has also received Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards from Business Ledger Magazine. First year sales were about $2,000,000, and increased an average of $2,000,000 per year afterward.
The new operation had positive cash flow after several months, brought venders current and was on normal terms after fourteen months. A venture capital company loan of $200,000 plus interest at 14% was paid in full and all the investors recouped their money back after just two years. A new LLC was formed which bought the assets of the previous operation, Hollywood Bar & Filmworks and Hollywood Blvd Cinema both, and took over operating the Woodridge location. Sales continued to grow every year until 2010 and by many statistics the theater still outperformed the industry in general and neighboring cinemas in particular.
In those first seven years of operation ending in 2010, there were 5 major expansions at Blvd, the most recent of which was completed in December 2010 and which brought the screen count up from the original 4 to 10, the lobby tripled in size including a large glass atrium, the box office was expanded to twice its space, washroom capacity increased, a private party room and even a Hollywood museum were added. The museum has an extensive collection of historic Hollywood items, some owned and others on loan. A full size Blues Mobile with statues of the Blues Brothers was added over the new entrance and roof top searchlights now beam across the night sky. Also as part of that expansion a casual sit down Chinese restaurant was added, the new “Formosa Café” was a truly spectacular restaurant that received rave reviews and terrific repeat business, but road construction in 2011 & 2012 was catastrophic. Formosa rent was temporarily cut in half, Bulthaup reduced payroll by 1/3 and sales were up an average of 30% in 2013, but it was not enough.
More people typically attended movies at the Woodridge theater in a year than attended Soldier Field to see the Chicago Bears play.
In September 2009 Bulthaup opened the seven screen Hollywood Palms, A Cinema, Bar & Eatery in Naperville in the midst of the worst economic chaos since the Great Depression. Yet, within nine short months of opening, sales were being generated at a rate that was not accomplished at Hollywood Blvd until after 3 years of operation and was cash flowing almost immediately.
Partial 3D technology was added to each of these operations in May 2010 and the digital transition was completed in the summer of 2013 (which was a must, since the studios soon stopped the release of movies on film).
One of the highlights for Hollywood Blvd Cinema was when Bulthaup arranged for his little friends “The Munchkins” to receive a Star on the sidewalk of the other Hollywood Blvd, (the street in LA). At that time, Hollywood Blvd had the highest attended screenings of “The Wizard of Oz” in the world and had always brought in the remaining seven Munchkin actors in for those showings. Bulthaup’s first nomination of the Munchkins for the honor was rejected (22 honorees being selected from over 600 nominations). Bulthaup started calling friends in the industry to help lobby for the cause with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ted Turner, Roger Ebert, Hugh Hefner, Tippi Hedren, Harvey Weinstein, Mickey Rooney, Jane Russell, AFI, Leonard Maltin, TCM as well as every major Hollywood studio including Warner Bros, Universal, MGM, Sony, Disney, Paramount and others all wrote letters or made personals appeals to the Mayor of Hollywood. The Munchkins were given their Star in November 2007. The successful campaign and the ceremony itself was a 15 minute special feature on the 70th Anniversary Oz DVD and was covered on what Warner Bros called an unprecedented 575 television news shows in the USA alone, including Good Morning America, the Today Show, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and even Hardball with Chris Mathews took note.
Around the world event coverage included NPR, BBC, Reuters and the news wire services, stories ran all over Europe, China, India, Japan, and the Middle East – Bulthaup was even mentioned in the Istanbul newspaper as Cinesman Sahib Ted Bulthaup. They don't have an Arabic word for 'Munchkin' either.
Bulthaup used the occasion of the Munchkin’s Star ceremony to host a Wizard of Oz event at Grauman’s Chinese Theater; in front of which the Munchkins were getting their Star placed the next morning and which was the venue where “The Wizard of Oz” had premiered 68 years before and at which some of the attending Munchkins were actually present. Over $30,000 was raised for historic preservation of Hollywood landmarks.
One of the special hallmarks of Bulthaup’s operations is when show business friends or connections were asked to bring Hollywood Stars to the theaters to meet audiences and sign autographs. People like Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Rita Moreno, Burt Reynolds Tony Curtis, Teri Garr, Richard Dreyfus, William Shatner, David Carradine, Shirley Jones, Leslie Nielsen, Karen Allen, Peter Falk, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Paris Hilton, Ernest Borgnine, Channing Tatum, Michael Madsen, Martin Landau, Penny Marshall, Malcolm McDowell, Verne Troyer, Tippi Hedren, Peter Fonda, Elliot Gould, Robert Englund, and many, many others came to town.
Several “Harry Potter” actors came to the theaters for the openings of their films, including the Phelps (Weasley) Twins, and for the last installment of the Potter movies, Tom Felton, who played ‘Draco Malfoy’. Paramount had Johnny Knoxville come in for the opening weekend of the last “Jack Ass” movie. Jennifer Hudson was there for the opening of “Dreamgirls”. David Arquette hosted exclusive screenings of the first film he produced, wrote, directed and starred in with several other cast members. Eight actors from the “Twilight” films including Ashley Green & Kellan Lutz have hosted opening weekends of that series; with Peter Facinelli hosting the opening weekend of the last installment of Twilight. Zach Gordon who plays the title role of the “Wimpy Kid” in the movie series of the same name spent the opening weekends hosting the film. Virginia Madsen was in for the opening weekend of the exclusive Chicagoland run of “The Miracle of Belle Island” (in which she co-starred with Morgan Freeman). The week before Christmas, Hollywood hosted Bailee Madison & Josh Rush for the Chicagoland Premier of “Parental Guidance”, which later opened on Christmas Day and in which they co-stared with Billy Crystal & Bette Midler. Hollywood has also been the host for cast appearances or cast reunions such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Hannah Montana, The Wizard of Oz, Animal House, West Side Story, Rocky Horror, The Poseidon Adventure, High School Musical, Back to the Future, Oliver, Star Wars, Willie Wonka & others.
Roger Ebert had ‘Tweeted” that Hollywood Blvd and Palms was his favorite theaters.
The amount of recognition on national, state, and local levels with various marketing, community service and achievement awards that Bulthaup’s businesses have been honored with are too numerous to list here, but include two more marketing awards from the National Association of Theater Owners and nine ‘best’ awards for publicity from the Chicago Publicity Club.
Over the years Bulthaup was an occasional guest lecturer to students on marketing and entrepreneurship. He and the theaters are frequent subjects of national and worldwide news stories including a ‘go to’ resource for CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Reuters, the Food Network and others.
Based on column inches, broadcast minutes and website hits, the value of generated publicity annually approached $15,000,000 which is more than the entire tourism advertising budget for the City of Chicago and the State of Indiana. The cinema’s website receives at least 5000 hits per week and approximately 160,000 people subscribed to the movie guide which is distributed by email every week. This is a great boon for the cities in which the theaters were located.
Bulthaup has always interacted with the community and charitable organizations. Due to the cost of giving away tickets, which is not allowed by the studios and the theaters are charged the full cost of admission, most other cinemas do not donate tickets. Bulthaup donated admissions to many causes at his own expense. This included regular LifeSource blood drives at the cinemas, (get a free ticket when you give blood) and those two theaters were the largest private source of blood for DuPage County. Other highlights included the Easter Seals where entire facilities were donated for the use to hold private pre-release events for each of the Harry Potter series of films. The funds were used in the fight against childhood leukemia and eventually over $100,000 was raised. Total admissions of over $50,000 for a weekend of “Back to the Future” screenings were donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation when four of the films actors, including Christopher Lloyd made an in-theater personal appearance. When Terri Garr hosted screenings of “Young Frankenstein” approximately $30,000 was raised in one evening for the fight against MS (which she suffers from). The annual Oscar Night big screen event raised money for the Variety Children’s Charity, exceeding the amounts raised from Richard Roeper’s downtown Oscar events. The theaters received national awards for the efforts from Easter Seals, Variety Club Children’s Charities, National Association of Theater Owners, LifeSource and too many various local recognitions to count; including from schools, little leagues, scouts, suicide prevention, wildlife rescue and various other causes. Whenever the remaining Munchkins visited the theaters for the annual screenings of “The Wizard of Oz”; Bulthaup would take several to an area hospital and visit the children’s ward, or hold large “Meet a Munchkin” events in area hospital wards and cafeterias.
Two free tickets were awarded for every toy donated to one of the theaters during the Christmas holidays, which were in turn donated to the WGN toy drive. Karolyn Grimes who played ZuZu in “It’s a Wonderful Life” made 15 annual paid personal appearances hosting screenings of the iconic film at the theaters. Bulthaup would always have her lead the procession of full toy laden vehicles to the studios, hosting on air segments for the toy drives final day and filming ‘promo spots’ for the following year.
Bulthaup also occasionally lectured to students about marketing and entrepreneurship. He or the theaters have frequently been the subject of national and worldwide news stories including even CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Reuters, the Network Food and others. Bulthaup was a go to source for the media on industry issues, such as CNN & ABC after Colorado shootings.
Bulthaup has been in the entertainment industry for 40 years, originated the dinner and a movie concept and has been successful in that business for 25 years; easily the most experienced person
in the nation on this aspect of the industry.
Ted is a native Texan, born on a US Air Force base in Lubbock. His father had gone through ROTC in both high school and college, entering the service as an Officer after graduation. He was a bomber and fighter pilot and was so good ended up training new pilots. The service wanted to promote him to a full Colonel and transfer him to SAC, with everyone moving to an Alaskan Air Base with the new B-52's coming into service. Rather than take that promotion and transfer, he left the service to keep the family together and away from a primary nuclear target.
Ted was a member of St. Johns UCC while in Indianapolis (with which his family was affiliated for 4 generations) and now attends Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago. Married with 3 step children and four grandchildren. Also 3 dogs (willing to let you have one certain dog), sponsored Tony Curtis’ horse rescue ranch ‘Shiloh’ and sponsors a tiger at Tippi Hedren’s wildlife rescue, ‘Shambala’. Ted has also maintained his deep childhood interest in American history, especially the Texas Revolution and the Civil War period, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Hollywood movie history and bat conservation.