The Oak Park Community Design Commission approved a proposed new digital marquee to replace the historic analog one that has fronted Lake Theatre in downtown Oak Park for more than eight decades.
The marquee proposal was approved in a 6-1 vote at the commission's Aug. 28 meeting at Oak Park Village Hall.
Lake Theatre owner Willis Johnson told commissioners that the familiar marquee was erected in 1936 and hasn't changed much over the years.
He said the marquee would continue to promote movies and community events as it has for years, but the new digital version would make it easier to update and maintain.
"We will not be displaying any advertising material, except as it pertains to what is taking place in the theater and the occasional public service announcements we make in the front," Johnson said.
Oak Park's sign code allows reader board messages to change every eight seconds, but in the case of the Lake Theatre marquee, commissioners increased that to 20 seconds.
Scott Smith, the sole dissenting vote on the commission, empathized with Johnson on the time and cost of maintaining the historic marquee, but added, "I don't want a piece of Times Square in Oak Park."
Johnson said he did not intend to have that either and that the village code wouldn't allow it. "We can't have a moving and we can't have a flashing image," he said.
He said the light from the digital marquee also would be no brighter than the existing marquee.
Johnson said that one of the advantages of the new marquee would be its ability to share a variety of community announcements. The theater regularly posts community announcements such events sponsored by the village.
The existing marquee allows community announcements one at a time and for two days at a time.
"One of the big advantages of a digital marquee is it can change messages quickly, and you can have more than one message coming up," Johnson said, adding that "now there are times we say we can't [display some community messages] because the time slot is already taken."
He said the theatre also would be able to react more quickly to breaking events, such as the recent death of Bobbie Raymond, founder of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center.
The commission's recommendation will now head to the village's board of trustees for a final vote.
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