Second City plans major expansion at Piper's Alley

Second City, the famed Chicago comedy theater, is to announce Tuesday that it has acquired the former AMC Loews movie theater inside the Piper's Alley complex at 230 W. North Ave.  Second City plans to fill the new space with "student-centered facilities," including two theaters, classrooms, a student lounge and bar, event space and other new facilities.

The new footprint will represent a significant expansion: Second City currently has 20,300 square feet of leased space inside Piper's Alley. The addition of the former movie-theater space adds an additional 25,000 square feet to the privately owned comedy theater.

Second City's announcement comes as its competitor, iO (formerly ImprovOlympic), is in the process of moving to a new, expanded space of its own on Kingsbury Avenue. Both expansions clearly reflect the growing numbers of students studying comedy and improv in Chicago, and paying these institutions, both of which frequently are gateways to "Saturday Night Live!" and other TV opportunities,  to take classes. 

In essence, the expansions, which are heavy on facilities for sudents, reflect a increased understanding that comedy students are not now just taking the occasional class, but are following curricula requiring more sophisticated technology and they are wanting to spend some of less-structured time at their host institution, much as they would at a university.

"This will give the opportunity for more student performances in front of audiences, resources to enhance their education, places to work and collaborate, and program-specific materials and technology in classrooms," said Second City CEO (and co-owner) Andrew Alexander.

The movie theater, once one of the most popular in the city, closed in 2011. Second City also said that its plans included the opening up of a huge bricked-over window in the building on North Avenue, allowing for light to spill into the new facility for performers in training.