Chicago icons Jennifer Hudson, Chance the Rapper, and Quincy Jones have teamed up to reopen and revitalize the Ramova Theater in Bridgeport’s South Side neighborhood after the venue remained dormant for nearly 40 years.
Ramova, co-owned by Hudson, Chance and Jones, will reopen in fall 2023 as a 1,500-capacity live music venue with a grill, beer garden and brewery, in partnership with Other Half Brewing.
“I believe that cultural divides in our communities will always be bridged and amplified through music and art,” Jones said. “With Ramova, I see a future where Chicago’s rich cultural heritage shines brighter alongside the nation’s most talented artists, inspiring future generations and bringing glory to America’s Second City.”
The Ramova, which opened in 1929 as Bridgeport’s main movie theater, closed its doors in 1985 after the last showing of “Police Academy 2.” The theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021, several years after developer Tyler Nevius became an investor and owner of the venue and sought to redesign and reopen it.
Ramova’s revitalization is part of a broader investment effort on Chicago’s South Side. According to the press release, “Ramova will also offer educational programs [and] host workshops and strengthen local nonprofits’ community initiatives.
“My mother always taught us to take care of the home first, so supporting the rehabilitation of this remarkable theater in Chicago with such a rich history means more to me than you can imagine,” said Hudson. “I am honored and excited to help build this new home for artists and highlight this special community in new ways that will reach far beyond the neighborhoods we call home.”
Chance the Rapper added: “Chicago will always be a part of who I am. I joined the team at Ramova to pay back to the city that has given me so much and to provide a stage to showcase the incredible talent Chicago has to offer. “This is our moment to revitalize Chicago neighborhoods in one of the most beautiful ways possible: through art.”
In addition to its mission to “bring top performing artists to Bridgeport,” the venue is reopening Ramova Grill, which closed in 2012 after 82 years of service, as a 20-seat restaurant affiliated with the Other Half brewery. Partners Kevin Hickey and Brandon Phillips of The Duck Inn will oversee the grill’s culinary and beverage programs, with a menu that includes snack and shareable snacks, sandwiches, burgers, fries and Ramova Grill’s signature dish, chili, respectively. Sarah Loberg will serve as the brewery’s food and beverage director.
Peter Falknor, who has experience as general manager of Chicago venues The Empty Bottle, Thalia Hall and House of Blues, joins Ramova as director of operations. Kyle LaValley will be the director of programming and creative, responsible for booking major touring acts in the renovated concert hall. The development is supported by Nevius and his wife, Emily, who will oversee nonprofit outreach to Ramova.