Alex Pissios’ Influence on the Film Industry in Chicago

Alex Pissios’ Influence on the Film Industry in Chicago

Aug 9, 2022, 2:20:16 PM Entertainment

Alex Pissios grew up in what he describes as “the typical Greek American family” on the Northwest side of Chicago. His aunt and uncle lived on the first floor of the home, his grandparents lived on the second floor, and he lived on the top floor along with his parents and his two brothers. As a young boy, he greatly admired his father’s work as a special education teacher.


After graduating from high school, he attended Northern Illinois University in far western Chicago suburb of DeKalb. Originally intending to follow in his father’s career footsteps, he majored in special education and minored in secondary education. While entering the professional arena as a student teacher, however, a relative presented him with a compelling opportunity.


Alex Pissios’s uncle on his mother’s side, John Mirkopoulos owned and operated a fur and leather business in Indianapolis, Indiana. Looking for someone he could trust to establish and run a second location in Chicago, he reached out to his nephew who jumped at the chance to more than triple his salary as an educator.


While working in the fur and leather sector, Alex Pissios discovered a true passion and aptitude for business leadership that would redefine his life. Subsequently expanding into the field of real estate development, he found great success in the early 2000s, developing a variety of properties in the Galewood neighborhood and around the United Center (the home arena of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Bulls).


Then, with little warning, the housing bubble burst, leading the US economy into the great recession of the late 2000s. Alex Pissios was hit tremendously hard by this recession and was facing bankruptcy by 2010.


Things were looking truly bleak when, for the second time in his life, an uncle stepped in with a life-changing offer. This time, the uncle in question was his maternal great-uncle Nick Mirkopoulos, whom he ran into at a family wedding.


Nick Mirkopoulos lived in Toronto, Canada, where he owned and operated a large production studio under the name Cinespace. Like John Mirkopoulos before him, Nick Mirkopoulos was ready to expand into Chicago in partnership with his nephew who lived there.


Though the city has a long history as a filming location, production in Chicago has a history that is checkered at best. Mirkopoulos and Pissios saw an opportunity to finally establish Chicago the strong national film and television production leader that they knew it could be.


Driven by the knowledge that big Hollywood productions need big production facilities, Mirkopoulos and Pissios bought 60 acres of the defunct Ryerson Steel complex in the West Side Chicago neighborhood of North Lawndale in 2011. A year later, they purchased more Ryerson property that contributed an additional 10 acres to the facilities that continue to operate today as Cinespace Chicago Film Studios.


The largest North American independent production studio outside the greater Los Angeles area, Cinespace Chicago has earned a widespread reputation as the “Hollywood of the Midwest.” It is currently home to 52 soundstages.


In addition to providing state-of-the-art facilities, Nick Mirkopoulos and Alex Pissios attracted West Coast entertainment executives by helping them get the most for their production dollar and wrangle the full cooperation of Chicago’s legendarily temperamental entertainment unions. Thanks to Nick Mirkopoulos’s established industry connections, the large-scale productions came quickly after Cinespace Chicago’s initial establishment. By 2012, the studio had secured shooting agreements with Starz for the Kelsey Grammer situation comedy Boss and Paramount for the blockbuster franchise movie Transformers 3.


Cinespace Chicago’s early years were also very much formed by a longstanding partnership with renowned television producer Dick Wolf. In fact, all three shows in Wolf’s extremely popular “Chicago franchise” (Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Chicago Med) were shot at Cinespace Chicago.


With the Chicago franchise programs as its cornerstone, Cinespace Chicago went on to achieve tremendous success under Alex Pissios’ management. Using the expertise he had garnered in multiple business sectors, he quickly built an initial $500,000 investment into what Boss Magazine called a “billion-dollar behemoth.”


Another article in Chicago Magazine stated, “In the studio’s first five years, economic activity from Chicago film and TV production more than doubled, from $600 million a year to $1.3 billion. NBC alone employed 1,300 people on its local productions in 2016, paying more than $150 million in wages.”


To date, Cinespace Chicago has served as the shooting location for more than 40 large movie and television productions. These productions have yielded some of the most popular and groundbreaking film and video content of the last decade, including Empire, Divergent, Shameless, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.


From the opening of Cinespace Chicago to the present date, Alex Pissios estimates that the business has been responsible for creating more than 20,000 jobs. Registering the profound impact that Cinespace has had on production crewmembers alone, the local chapter of the ITSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) saw a membership increase from just 200 at the time of Cinespace’s founding to more than 2000 today. The number of Chicago area film and TV productions have skyrocketed from just one or two each year to more than a dozen shooting at the same time on any given day.


Alex Pissios has contributed to the film and television production industry while simultaneously assisting local youth as cofounder of the CineCares Foundation. Dedicated to his now-deceased great uncle and Cinespace business partner Nick Mirkopoulos, this foundation pays for internships and union dues to get low-income young people established in the production field.

Published by Samantha Brown

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