Cinespace founder’s legacy lives on


Santiago Covarrubias

The late Nikolaos Mirkopoulos gets a street named after him for his legacy of establishing Cinespace. 


The City of Chicago held a street- naming ceremony Oct. 22 honoring the life of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios founder Nikolaos Mirkopoulos, who died of cancer at 71 in 2013. Cinespace, located at 2621 W. 15th Place,  in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, occupies 1.45 million square feet, and is the center of much of the Chicago area’s flimmaking. Mirkopoulos, who graduated with an electrical degree in Germany and relocated to Canada in 1968. He started looking at Chicago in 2009 to expand Cinespace, which he had already founded in Toronto Canada, according to Jim Mirkopoulos, Nikolaos’ nephew and studio vice president of Cinespace in Toronto.

According to Jim Mirkopoulos, Cinespace Toronto and Chicago combined offer 2 million square-feet  of  space which, he said, makes Cinespace the largest privately owned and operated film studio in North America. The studio is responsible for creating television shows “Chicago Med,” season one; “Chicago PD,” seasons one, two and three, “Empire,” and the movies “Divergent” and the third and fourth installments of “Transformers.”

“If [Cinespace] wasn’t here, I bet those shows wouldn’t be here,” Mickey Wozniak, a junior business & entrepreneurship major said at the event.

Nikolaos Mirkopoulos’ vision revamped the film industry in Chicago and brought more business to a space that needed it, according to Marcy Null, production clerk on “Chicago Med.”

“In the twilight of his career, he came to Chicago and turned the TV and film industry around,” Jim Mirkopoulos said.

More than 100 people came out to support and honor the legacy of Nikolaos Mirkopoulos. Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Alderman Jason Ervin (28th Ward) attended the event as well as various family members of Nikolaos Mirkopoulos.

Before Cinespace was created, the company’s hundred-year- old building had been used to manufacture steel, according to Quinn.  Mirkopoulos had a vision of recycling and repurposing those buildings.

“He had a genius for figuring out how to take something that was existing in the past and [make it] great in the future,” Quinn said.

Cinespace has benefited the City of Chicago and the North Lawndale community by bringing in new jobs, Quinn said. “Empire” spends $4 million on each episode, according to Quinn. Ervin said everything from economic development to studio business has happened all because of  his vision.

Mirkopoulos is remembered as a person who loved helping people, said Adrienne Swan, production accountant for 20th Century Fox, who referred to Mirkopoulos as  “Uncle Nick.”

“I’m a beneficiary of [his vision] so I’m showing my respect and appreciation,” Swan said.

Nikolaos Mirkopoulos’ legacy will live on through the CineCares Foundation ,  created in 2014 after his death. CineCares offers scholarships and provides  resources  for families,  according to its website. 

Jim Mirkopoulos says he wants his uncle’s legacy to inspire the next generation of moviemakers to bring more shows to Chicago.

“I hope the students at Columbia go into film and television,” Jim Mirkopoulos said. “Content creation is the industry of the future.”