If Alex Pissios has his way, Chicago will be THE largest film production hub in the country.
As of now, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios occupies 2.2 million square feet of space in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood with more studios currently under construction. And, Pissios, Cinespace’s president and CEO, isn’t done yet.
Since opening in 2011, Cinespace has helped bring more than 20,000 jobs to the area as well as films like “Divergent,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” two Transformers movies (“Dark of the Moon” and “Age of Extinction”), Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” “Southside With You,” “Empire” and, from the Dick Wolf franchise, “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med.”
But it wasn’t always movies and roses for Pissios. In his early years, he found himself heavily in debt following the real estate recession of 2008. A wedding invite to Toronto, where his uncle Nick Mirkopoulos had launched a ginormous film and production facility, Cinespace, turned his luck around. Mirkopoulos saw the drive, ambition and need in his nephew and helped him found a Cinespace branch in Chicago in 2011.
Pissios is proud of the family business and strives to give back to the community that put the company on the map. To honor their Uncle Nick, Pissios, along with his brothers Dean and Nick, founded Th e CineCares Foundation, providing programs that empower Chicago residents through film and TV education and job training. The Cinespace company also supports hundreds of nonprofits in and around Chicago that specialize in education, health care (specifically cancer care), film and Hellenic causes, with a focus on organizations serving residents on the West and South sides.
“If you’re not making a diff erence in the lives of people and in your community, then you need to ask yourself what are you really doing?" Pissios said. “One of the core values of the work we do at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios is to have a positive community impact.”
Pissios’ rags-to-riches story reads like a fairytale, one that maybe one day we will see played out on the big screen, and filmed at Cinespace, of course.
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1. What made you want to get into this business?
I wanted to follow in my Uncle Nick’s footsteps.
2. Finish this sentence, “In 5 years I hope to be...”
Creating thousands more jobs!
3. How much tax revenue does Cinespace generate for the city and state?
Since we opened in 2011, over $5 billion.
4. How many productions can you handle at Cinespace?
We have had up to 10 at the same time.
5. Which series and shows are returning to Cinespace?
“Chicago Fire,” P.D. and Med, “The Chi” and “Southside.”
6. What new shows are coming to Cinespace?
“Starz’ Power Book IV: Force,” “Light Years” (with Sissy Spacek and Ed O’Neill) and “Paper Girls” (a mystery/science fiction comic book series).
7. Do you host tours there?
Not currently because of the virus, but we hope to do so soon.
8. What do you do in your time off, if you ever have time off?
Spend time with my family.
9. What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Help people in need.
10. Who was your mentor?
My parents and my uncle.
11. Do you have a favorite piece of film memorabilia?
I love my family’s old videos from the ‘70s.
12. What are your top three favorite movies of all time?
“Godfather,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Sixteen Candles.”