International Film Journal
Cinema, Bar & Eatery Brings Classic Movie Magic to Chicago Area
recent conversation over "Dinner at the Movies" could not have been conducted
in a more appropriate fashion, even if we did not get to enjoy Marilyn's
"voluptuous" Grilled Breast of Chicken ("...in our own savory marinade or BBQ")
with a side of Oscar Fries ("Our Academy Award-winning crosscut fries with a
side of hot melted cheese for dippin"), topped with Gladiator Caesar Salad
("Big-screen mix...tossed with much fanfare in our own Coliseum-sized bowl") and
washed down with a Halleberri Martini ("Stolichnaya Razberi Vodka and splash of
Black Raspberry Liqueur").
sixth edition of our exclusive series, the founder and owner-operator of the
Hollywood Blvd. Cinemas instead called in to Film Journal International from
the same street that gave his "Cinema, Bar & Eatery" in Woodridge, Illinois,
its glamorous names. Ted E.C. Bulthaup
III was in Hollywood, California,
to celebrate with the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz. On Nov. 20, the surviving seven were finally
honored with the 2,352nd star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The night before, a special fundraising
screening at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where the classic of all classics
premiered in 1939, benefited the Hollywood
Hollywood Historic Trust and the Hollywood Community Foundation.
We are very pleased and proud to have made this event
happen,” Bulthaup attests about working with the Munchkins for ten years
now. “We show Wizard on the big screen
every November and have people come in by the busloads. The Munchkins introduce the film, sign
autographs and people take pictures.” As
highlighted on the company website atriptothemovies.com, Hollywood
Blvd. has special events and welcomes celebrities
about once every month.
the classic movies,” Bulthaup explains, “and I have great love of history in
general. I think those are good
marketing themes. Nostalgia sells…and is
a winning concept.” Coming form the
concert and event promotion side (“Genesis, Springsteen…way back when, Cheap
Trick, Heart”), Bulthaup was “always interested in getting my own theatre like
the Pantages, and then renovating it for concerts. When I thought about it, however, I realized
a movie theatre would be better than a live entertainment theatre. What I like about the stage I would still be
doing with screened entertainment, and what I hate about live entertainment,”
he laughs, “at least I thought wouldn’t exist with films.”
In 1991, Bulthaup's ideas came to fruition when he opened
Filmworks, the first version of the Cinema & Eatery concept in a
130-year-old downtown warehouse in his then-hometown of Indianapolis. Contrary to what others claim, "We were the
first in the nation to show first-run films in such a situation," he says. "Basically in those days, studios would not
give first-run product to any movie theatre with a liquor license. Somehow, legal never sent up word to the
front-line people that Prohibition is over.
We started breaking down that barrier, and some studios went very
quickly. With others...it took some
doing"---including taking legal steps.
Municipal woes involving the doubling of taxes and even higher increases
in parking fees led to the closing of Filmworks on its 15th
anniversary on Halloween 2006. Then,
Bulthaup "packed up and moved all our assets up to Chicago."
an abandoned General Cinema for "millions of dollars," by bisecting a large
house into two smaller ones and repurposing a medium auditorium for the
kitchen, Hollywood Blvd.
has six screens and 1,000 seats, ranging from 100 to 300 "big executive leather
desk chairs." Since the opening in March
2003, attendance has grown by 500 percent.
"On a per-seat basis, I believe we have the highest attendance of any
movie theatre in the country," Bulthaup declares. As for the reasons, "a variety of things are
going on, and in each case we just do it better."
draws beyond the traditional three- to five-mile radius "to an hour easily" and
across state lines, too. "We even had
people asking where the nearest hotel is because they didn't want to drive home
that night. Think about that, where in
the world do people come that far to see a movie like Fred Claus?" he
wonder. "People who haven't been to the
movies in years hear of Hollywood Blvd.
through word of mouth and from the press.
They have such a great time that they start going to the movies
frequently again. I can't tell you how
many people have told me that." No wonder
Bulthaup is getting ready to expand the Boulevard by three screens ("our fourth
expansion in five years") and expects to close shortly on new property to be
ready to serve by this summer. With only
some ten miles (16 km) in between the two locations, wouldn't that be too close
for comfort and increase competition?
"When a traditional cinema company goes out for new locations," he
counters, "they look for a greener-pasture expansion. When I go out with my concept, I look for a
green pasture with fat sheep. And then I
take a bite out of the sheep." To do
so, Hollywood Blvd. has a flock of about 200 shepherds working at any
given time. "Labor is a very big issue,"
Bulthaup contends. "In the restaurant
industry, a manager makes 250% more decisions in the average day than the next
highest classification of managers. Of
course, that gets even more complicated if you add the film and movie overlay
on top of that structure." With the
additional help of 38 networked computers, he admits, "it's a very
sophisticated operation where we turn out a thousand meals in one hour" from a
5,000 square-foot kitchen (465 sq. m.) and countless drinks from five
bars. "That's unheard of," he exclaims.
Prior to opening Filmworks, however, "my experience with
cooking was limited to working one summer at ‘Dog ‘n' Suds' during high
school. When I opened in Indianapolis,
I realized what I wanted to do actually couldn't be done," he laughs. "But since I had already built it and opened
to the public, I had to find a way to make it work. It ‘s a clear case of necessity as the mother
of invention." Long before
theming became popular, Bulthaup "took on the calling to dress up the
traditional neon-film bunkers, because that's exactly how the public perceives
them. It you say that to someone, their
eyes light up and it immediately rings true with them. What affected me as a movie-goer previously
at other theatres is that all their auditoriums are generic and look the
same. We use that as kind of an
anti-advertisement and are doing exactly the opposite." And in a
big way, too. "We shipped over ten tons
of material from the Orient to decorate our version of Grauman's Chinese
Theatre," he recalls, "and many more things from the Middle East
so that we could play tribute to his Egyptian Theatre as well. There is also an Oscar auditorium, a Paramount/Sunset
Blvd. auditorium, a Kodak
Theatre and general L.A.
theme that are all individually designed and with different color schemes. The lobby bar has photos of various
celebrities putting their hand- and footprints in cement...with life-size photos
of the slabs on the walls nearby." One
of the expansion auditoria will feature large murals to "pay tribute to the old
Hollywood movie palaces." Classic movie posters---"mostly originals"
ranging from Cinderella to Super Vixens, and Woodstock to The Ghost in the
Invisible Bikini---and over 600 black-and-white glamour photos adorn the public
Screaming kids and equally noisy teenagers are banned from
the Boulevard, where the house policy strictly states that the cinema is
"generally ad adult facility and you must be at least 18 years old with
government-issued photo ID as proof."
With a minimum one item purchase, "all ages are permitted for any
matinee prior to 5:30 p.m. or to any
show designated as ‘all ages, all the time.'
Children under the age of 14 must always be accompanied by a responsible
adult...Children must be well-behaved and not be disruptive to our feature
presentation or they may be asked to leave." Several
other rules and services (see bottom of page) assure an overall enjoyable
stay. Most importantly, Bulthaup listens
to the audience. "I believe most cinema
chains don't do that. The heads of these
companies are accountants, financial guys or film buyers that don't interact
with the public. We are more in the
hospitality industry---like a restaurant---and nobody knows his customers
better than a restaurateur. We've got a
thousand customer cards coming back each month and we pay close attention to
them." The biggest complaint, he says,
is why does it have to take so long to get there? Why are you not closer to my home? "That's a great one to have...People don't like
my theatre. They love my theatre, that's
what they always say."
We take the
state laws for alcoholic consumption very seriously. To consume an alcoholic beverage, you must be
at least 21 years of age with valid government-issued photo
identification. No ID, No Alcohol, No
Sale, No Way, Don't even try. The boss
even makes us card his own mother!
Violators will be taken away in chains!
If you buy alcoholic beverages for a minor, you will join them in the
back seat of the squad car. We don't,
and can't, make exceptions!
everyday admission price is at or below those nasty mall cinemas and we do
offer discount admission to seniors, students and military personnel with valid
photo ID and for any matinee before 5:30 p.m.
popcorn in a big bucket with real butter from real cows, not that nasty
artificial, yellow-colored soybean syrup.
We don't do
much like those other cinemas, but if ya gotta projector, ya gotta have this
stuff! Big boxes & Bags of your
Favorite Movie Treats including Plain, Peanut and Crispy M&M's, Milk Duds,
Starburst, Sour Patch Kids, Raisinets, Twizzlers and Reese's Pieces.
Our auditoriums feature terraced
seating in your own individual high-back executive leather rocking chair, not bolted to the ground
or attached to the seat beside you.
Rather than cup-holders, we feature a table in front of you to give you
plenty of room for your food, drinks and even leg room. You don't have to share an armrest with anyone and all the leg room you want. What a concept!
We seat you
in beautifully and individually decorated auditoriums featuring DTS and all the
latest Dolby Technology. We bring you
movies the way they should be seen, in class, style and comfort like no place
else on Earth.
wait staff will provide full food and beverage service during the film. You can order from our menu...all of our menu items are
carefully chosen to be easily eaten in the dark, so as not to distract you from
the film. Service is available up until
20 minutes prior to the end of the film, at which time checks will be presented
There is no
better way to watch a movie! If you can
find a better ticket, buy it!