Closed northwest-side theater set to reopen

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An independent theater owner hopes to breathe new life into a northwest-side movie complex that closed nearly two years ago.

Chicago native Leigh Friedman is leasing the building near 86th Street and Michigan Road in Indianapolis that housed the old AMC Loews College Park 14 movie theater.

The theater closed in July 2009 after competing for a few years with Kerasotes' Showplace 12 at Traders Point, just 2-1/2 miles away. AMC bought Traders Point in 2010

Still, Friedman, 57, is confident a market remains for another theater in the area. He plans to open his Movie Buff Theatre April 29 with about five first-run films and ramp up until all 14 screens in the building are operating. A few independent films likely will be shown, as well.

Friedman built a career as a mortgage broker in the North Shore neighborhood of Chicago by concentrating on jumbo and super jumbo loans of at least $650,000.

But a few years ago when the market seemed to disappear overnight, Friedman said, he left the mortgage industry and began searching for a business to operate.

Initially concentrating on warm-weather locations, he discovered a vacated and dilapidated theater in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., that had closed in 2009. He opened on Christmas day the same year.

The theater building in Florida is owned by locally-based Sandor Development Co.—his link to Indianapolis. Sandor developed College Park, and company founder and CEO Sidney Eskenazi suggested Friedman take a look at the vacant space here.

Friedman said the theater in Indianapolis is in much better shape than the one he opened in Florida.

Film projectors and other equipment are functional, but some of the building’s plumbing, tile and carpet will need to be replaced, he said.

Friedman may offer a few deals to promote the theater, such as $5 tickets on weekdays and $7 on weekends, and possibly a free small popcorn with the purchase of a drink.

“My intention is to just open up a theater,” he said. “You would like to make income from every square inch that you have. Having the theater empty is not going to help.”

He ultimately hopes to have 10 to 15 employees.

Friedman’s theater in Florida is performing “OK,” he said. The business is very seasonal because much of the surrounding population of senior citizens leaves following the winter months.

“It’s a good complement,” he said of his new theater.

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