Weekend block party celebrates filming in Chicago

SHARE Weekend block party celebrates filming in Chicago
SHARE Weekend block party celebrates filming in Chicago

BY SELENA FRAGASSI | FOR THE SUN-TIMES

When it comes to television shows “Empire” and “Chicago Fire” and movies such as “Transformers,” a lot of credit is due to a sprawling Chicago film studio called Cinespace. Since opening in 2011, the 1.45 million-square-foot campus in North Lawndale has become a local commodity to the entertainment industry, serving as one of the largest soundstages outside of California,where blockbusters can literally explode onto the screen. This weekend, all of the action comes together in one big party as many wonder whether Chicago is on track to be Hollywood 2.0.

“The magic [Cinespace] has created the last four years made me realize how important Chicago is to the film and television industry and I wanted to do something to celebrate it,” says Ron Onesti of the First Annual CineFest Backlot Block Party, a three-day event which gives the public “behind the scenes” access before reported backlot tours arrivein the near future.

CINEFEST BACKLOT BLOCK PARTY When: August 28-30 Where: Cinespace Film Studios, 2621 W. 15th Place Tickets: $20 (in advance); VIP upgrades available Info: (630) 962.7000; cinefestchicago.com

The event will feature 30 bands on three stages, a lineup of local food trucks, beer from neighboring brewery Lagunitas, and special exhibits featuring recreations of items from various screen projects. Everything from Charlie Chaplin’s “His New Job,” one of the actor’s first major market movies filmed in Chicago in1915, to more modern classics like “The Breakfast Club,” “Home Alone,” “Batman” and “The Blues Brothers,” will be represented.

The collection came together from contacts and friends Onesti has made in the industry as the owner of the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles and founder of Onesti Entertainment Corporation. He acquired a replica “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” float from maker Associated Attractions, a company he works with annually in developing the Columbus Day Parade, and has some of the classic “Untouchables” cars on loan from the Chicago chapter of the Model T Club. “I just wanted to tap into what I know to make it happen,” Onesti says. “There’s a lot to be said of the movies and shows made here; it’s more real than what you see onscreen.”

A replica of the float used in the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” will be on display at CineFest. | PARAMOUNT PICTURES

A replica of the float used in the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” will be on display at CineFest. | PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Music is also a highlight with acts spanning classic rock, bluegrass, roots, blues and EDM. Here are 10 takes, some of who have their own interesting ties to film and TV:

Bret Michaels: Frontman of hair metal act Poison, Michaels also wrote and starred in the 1988 production “A Letter From Death Row” and appeared on reality shows “Rock Of Love” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” (Saturday)

Blue Oyster Cult: One of the ‘70s ‘cult’ hard rock bands. Song “Burnin’ For You” was existential to early MTV culture while “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” became a hit after appearing in John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” (Friday)

Quiet Riot: American metal band founded in ’73 by the late guitarist Randy Rhoads once broke the Billboard charts for heavy music. Cheeky songs like “Cum On Feel the Noize” have often been parodied, most famously on “ The Simpsons.” (Sunday)

Chicago 6 Band: The 1985 Bears champs Dan Hampton, Otis Wilson and Steve McMichael come together 30 years later as the reformed cover band Chicago 6. Perhaps they will spoof their own “Super Bowl Shuffle” a la “Saturday Night Live.” (Sunday)

The NuBlu Band: Named for a “new blues” style that imports dance, funk, pop and R&B, though they are still closely tied to the foundation; singer Carlise Guy is the daughter of Buddy Guy. (Sunday)

Freddy Jones Band: One of Chicago’s finest roots rock bands formed in the ‘90s (see album “North Ave. Wake-Up Call”) that often hints at traditional blues-rock and has some rambling southern rock notes. (Saturday)

Milk N Cooks: Twin brothers originally from Palatine are gaining traction in the EDM sphere, first hailed after releasing a 2011 remix of Adele’s “Someone Like You” and appearing on a slew of festival dates. (Friday, Saturday)

Phosphene: This pop metal band (bearing strong similarity to Lacuna Coil) calls Chicago home and comes fresh off the 2015 version of Warped Tour. (Saturday)

Michael Allman: He has his father’s last name—and his style with a strong southern-rock and blues-rock quotient. Look for originals and covers of The Allman Brothers Band. (Sunday)

Kashmir: Local Led Zeppelin tribute recreates the experience using original costumes, special effects and vintage gear. They reflect on the entire catalog, including concert movie, “The Song Remains The Same.” (Friday)

Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.

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