ICE Theaters pays tribute to Townsend by screening The Five Heartbeats and honoring him with an award during a special interview by B.E.T. executive and former Lawndale resident Louis Carr. "I am proud to be a part of this celebration," states Townsend. "Donzell and Alisa Starks were trailblazers when they opened the country's first African-American owned movie theater chain nearly 15 years ago. By building their ICE Theaters in our communities, they made huge contributions to the revitalization of both the Lawndale and Chatham neighborhoods. The couple continues to set an excellent example for young people that dreams can come true with lots of hard work."
The Five Heartbeats is Townsend's homage to such R&B male singing groups of the '60s as the Temptations, The Dells, and The Whispers. The film became a beloved, iconic neighborhood box office success among African-American baby boomers. "I think the reason The Five Heartbeats holds a special place for so many people is because it takes them back to their youth," explains Townsend. "It reminds them of a time when music told a story."
For more than three decades, Townsend, raised in Lawndale, has been a mainstay in film and television, starting with his first film role (a bit part) in Cooley High, the story of a group of Chicago inner city, African-American high school students. His career ignited in 1984 when he appeared opposite Denzel Washington in A Soldier's Story. Some of his other works include: Hollywood Shuffle, Meteor Man, The Mighty Quinn, Book of Love, Little Richard Story (directed), B.A.P.S (directed) among many others. Townsend has led an exceptional career ranging from actor, comedian, writer, director, and producer to his most recent position as president and CEO of the Black Family Channel.
He has been busy creating new media in the Internet with an award-winning web series Diary of a Single Mom starring Monica Calhoun (The Best Man, Love And Basketball), Valery Ortiz (South of Nowhere), Janice Lynde (Letters To Dad), Richard Roundtree (Shaft, Se7en), Leon (The Five Heartbeats, Little Richard) and Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars, Brian's Song), which all can be seen online at www.pic.tv.
Townsend's latest film, The Discarded Boys, starring Loretta Devine (For Colored Girls, Crash), Michael Clark Duncan (The Green Mile, The Whole Nine Yards), and Vivica Fox (Independence Day, Kill Bill) will be the opening night film at the American Black Film Festival on July 6 in Miami. The net proceeds from "An Evening with Robert Townsend" will be donated to the Robert Townsend Foundation, which was set up to encourage, inspire, and motivate new artists to soar. Townsend conducts master classes throughout the country teaching writing, directing, acting, and filmmaking.
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Townsend's The Five Heartbeats is among several events planned by Inner City Entertainment to commemorate the re-opening of ICE Lawndale Theaters and honor African-American achievements in the film industry. On Thursday, April 21, ICE Lawndale Theaters will show old school throwback film favorites and offer $1 specials at the concession stand.
"In these tough economic times, we are very fortunate and grateful to our customers to have been entertaining and educating Chicago audiences for nearly 15 years. We are especially proud of Robert Townsend's contributions to the film industry, which is why we chose to honor him," states Alisa Starks, president, Inner City Entertainment.
By exhibiting current, classic and independent films, Inner City Entertainment aims to empower the community by showcasing the talents of African Americans both in front of and behind the camera. Inner City Entertainment is the first African-American company in the history of film exhibition to own and operate a first-run movie theater chain. Tickets for these events are available at the ICE Lawndale Theaters box office on April 21. ICE Lawndale 10 is located at 3330 W. Roosevelt Road at Homan Ave. Theaters open daily starting at 12 noon.
Meet Robert Townsend
ICE Lawndale Theaters
Roosevelt Road & Homan Avenue
Friday night, 7pm