Opera? Rock concerts? Live sporting events? The Lake Theatre is more than just a movie theatre.

Oak Park’s sole cinema has slowly and quietly been expanding its entertainment offerings to more than just art house movies and blockbuster hits.

“Movies continue to be very popular,” said Jim Boghamer, general manager. “There are many entertainment companies out there now that have packaged what they call ‘alternative content’ and they are offering them to movie houses.”

Within the past year, the Lake has shown rock concerts by The Ramones, U2, John Fogarty, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, to name a handful.

“Because concerts have gone digital, there is more available,” said Boghamer.

Although offerings such as rock concerts may seem better played at night on the weekends when a greater audience (such as teenagers) can attend, he said The Lake has to run the special offerings during the week so as not to interfere with film commitments. “No studio wants to have a top movie pulled from a prime time [slot],” said Boghamer, who has been with Classic Cinema since 1975.

Now, in response to popular demand, The Lake will show a series of Italian operas, beginning with La Traviata by Verdi today (March 26) at 1 and 7 p.m.; Maria Stuarda by Donizetti on Wednesday, April 30 at 1 and 7 p.m. and Il Trittico by Puccini on Thursday, May 15 at 1 and 7 p.m.

“The seats are $20, so this is considerably more than the usual price of a movie,” said Boghamer. The operas have English subtitles, he noted, are several hours in length, and will include an intermission. “People were very enthusiastic about Aida, the first opera we showed,” Boghamer said, noting that Lake Theatre patrons are very vocal, and he receives requests for foreign films, art films, operas and more on a regular basis. “There are book clubs, opera clubs, people who are true fans, and when they want to see something, they will let us know.”

As to what lies in the future, Boghamer said that with the popularity of 3D, many movies such as Star Wars will be reintroduced to old as well as new audiences.

“Our summer matinee is #1 in the country,” said Boghamer, referring to the special children’s movie series that is offered for just $1. The movie series last year included Night at The Museum and Charlotte’s Web. “We show the movie simultaneously in six of our seven theaters, accommodating approximately 1,600 seats,” said Boghamer.

Up next could be live feeds of events and concerts, such as Celine Dion, he said.

Will the movie ever be overshadowed by special events? “You can see a new movie for $8,” said Boghamer, as evidence for the continuing popularity of going to the movies. “You can’t see a sporting event or a concert for that.”

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