Producer’s dream of a South Shore film studio gets city OKDavid Roederon July 15, 2021 at 6:22 pm

A proposal for a $60 million film studio in South Shore backed by TV producer Derek Dudley, whose credits include the Showtime series “The Chi,” got a thumbs-up Thursday from a city planning agency.

The Chicago Plan Commission unanimously backed zoning for the complex on 7 acres at 7731 S. South Chicago Ave. With investors that include James Reynolds Jr., chairman of Chicago-based Loop Capital Markets, Dudley said the project could anchor a South Side entertainment district that would include the nearby Avalon Regal Theater.

“I grew up on the South Side. This has been a dream of mine for several years,” Dudley told the plan commission. “I was fortunate to get into the entertainment business, which afforded me great opportunities” that include a chance for give back to the community, he said.

Dudley said the project would be “monumental in terms of being able to expand the film industry business and make Chicago the Hollywood of the Midwest.”

The project would take over an empty, triangular parcel near the Chicago Skyway. Years ago, it was the site of a Kmart.

Through his company, Regal Mile Ventures, Dudley hopes to start construction later this year. It passed an important hurdle with the plan commission vote and the project now heads to the City Council for approval.

“The community is totally excited about this project,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who brought it to several community meetings. City officials said the process led to several improvements in the plan, such as more trees and landscaping and the addition of a public plaza.

They said the complex could support around 300 production jobs when it’s in full use.

Zoning documents show Dudley has the support of an owner of the property, Kmart, now part of a spinoff from Sears Holdings. The city owns a portion of the land, and on Tuesday the Community Development Commission agreed to sell it to Regal Mile for $31,000.

New York Comic Con 2018 - Day 1
Derek Dudley
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Dudley, who works closely with the rapper and actor Common, hopes to profit from increasing demand for production space, driven by streaming services in search of original programming. In Chicago, film production is dominated by the Cinespace studios, which have been expanded and currently host Dudley’s “The Chi.”

A website for Dudley’s development cites Netflix, Disney and Amazon as having interest in doing more production work in Chicago.

The website also highlights a potential revival of the Avalon Regal, also recently called the New Regal, at 1641 E. 79th St. With an auditorium of 2,250 seats, the theater has been little used for years. The 1927 building is a city landmark and in its heyday was a busy stage for African American performers.

Dudley could not be reached for details about that aspect of the plan.

Regal owner Jerald Gary said in 2019 that rapper Kanye West pledged $1 million to help reopen the theater. It’s not known if the contribution came through.

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