The son of Greek immigrants and a Chicagoland native, Alexander S. “Alex” Pissios is the President and CEO of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios. At Northern Illinois University, he earned an English literature degree and considered becoming a special education teacher like his father. He instead began developing real estate around the United Center in 2003.
Alex Pissios and other real estate developers came close to losing everything during the 2008 recession. He decided to embark on another family business. Years earlier in Toronto, Pissios’ uncle Nick Mirkopoulos had launched a film and television production facility. That studio in Canada hosted notable productions like the Best Picture Oscar-winner Chicago and the Golden Globe-nominated The Handmaid’s Tale.
In 2011, Mirkopoulos and Pissios purchased 60 acres of the former Ryerson Steel complex in the Windy City’s North Lawndale neighborhood. They created Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, called “Hollywood of the Midwest” for being the largest independent movie studio outside of Los Angeles.
Cinespace offers digital media employment and education opportunities to members of the neighborhood, creating more than 15,000 jobs in the community and region. Pissios’s leadership has been instrumental in bringing more than three billion dollars in film-related spending to Chicago and Illinois.
The Cinespace complex consists of 32 sound stages, dozens of production offices, and support spaces, along with tenants that offer casting services, equipment, post-production houses, plus a 3D animation company, camera, and lighting rentals and sales. Cinespace Chicago has shepherded over 40 major productions, including the movies Divergent, Transformers, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; series from Netflix, HBO and Amazon; and TV shows, including Empire and Shameless, as well as the Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Chicago Med. The campus also houses the Chicago branch of Lagunitas Brewing Company, a 300,000 square foot brewery, taproom, and event space.
Cinespace partnered with DePaul University’s film school in 2013 to house student classrooms, two interactive stages, faculty offices, lounges, and equipment vaults. Ranked 13th best nationwide, DePaul’s film program teaches aspiring producers and creatives about all aspects of television and film production.
To honor the memory of uncle Nick, Pissios, with brothers Nick and Dean, started The CineCares Foundation to empower Chicago residents through education and job training. The Mirkopoulos Internship Program partners with other community programs to train local youth and young adults. The apprentices have the opportunity to work on Cinespace Chicago campus productions. Pissios also started the nonprofit film incubator program now called the Independent Film Alliance Chicago, which invites production creatives to develop projects and ultimately influence Illinois’ economy by building a self-sustaining entertainment industry in Chicago.