Completed in 1897 as Chicago’s first public library, the building was designed to impress and to prove that Chicago had grown into a sophisticated metropolis. Named for the longtime Chicago Tribune performing arts critic, the Claudia Cassidy Theater is the only projector & screen “proper movie theater” owned by the City of Chicago, and is home to the Chicago Film Office, the agency which leads the city’s efforts to attract and support the production of feature films, televisions series, commercials, and all forms of screen entertainment produced in Chicago.
In recent years, the Cassidy Theater, located on the second floor of this iconic Chicago treasure, was starting to look a bit long in the tooth. Nobody was quite sure when the room had last been remodeled, but consensus was that it may have been in the late 70s or early 80s, and it certainly had that look about it. Given the lack of use, due to the pandemic restrictions, the Cassidy Theater was closed in 2021 for a complete renovation. One of the first calls DCASE (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events) made was to AEG. Knowing that the makeover of the seating in the room was going to play a major role in the remodeling project, they asked around, and people suggested they reach out to “the theater seating guys in the Mart.”
While auditorium seating is not our primary category, we are in the theater seating business, and that means all theater seating, particularly any project which is looking for a custom touch. Our first step was to determine the best possible reconfiguration of the seating itself. The room had 245 seats in it prior to the makeover project, but they were small and uncomfortable, and looked more like seating for a junior high auditorium than for the home of the Chicago Film Office. In addition to designing a larger, more comfortable chair, we also had to address certain spacing requirements, as a function of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Ultimately, we were given a hard number of a 200 seat minimum for the theater, such that it could be promoted as a “200+” seat theater. With some very precise planning, we delivered it at 202 seats.
Working again with our partners at Davis Furniture Company, we designed a beautiful, one-of-a-kind chair, featuring a high-performance plush fabric, elegant wood accents, and integrated under-arm LED row lighting. As a proud Chicagoan, it was an honor and a source of great pride to be able to put our name on such a significant part of the city’s history.