Midwest Film Distributor Acquires Second City’s Jack C. Newell’s Food-Focused Films

Open Tables Poster

CHICAGO, October 31, 2019 -​​​​ The Midwest’s first and only full-service, independent film and television distributor, Cow Lamp Films announced they acquired the rights to the first two films, Open Tables and Close Quarters, by Jack C. Newell, Program Director of The Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City.

Newell is known for his food-focused films. He uses food and humor to look at relationships through a coffee house in Close Quarters and dinner parties in Open Tables. He hasn’t strayed too far from the food scene. He was recently listed on The 14 Best Netflix Food Documentaries for directing, 42 Grams, about a couple serving 15-course meals from their apartment to pursuing the American Dream by opening up a Michelin starred upscale eatery in Chicago’s Uptown.

Open Tables: 

Chicago is known for its food scene, which takes center stage in Open Tables (2016), a romantic comedy where every table has a story. Featuring some of the most prominent Chicago restaurants, Open Tables includes Longman & Eagle, Scofflaw, Sunda, and Acadia.

Through exclusive dinner parties,  Open Tables explores colliding stories of love lost, love found and all the details in between. Over the 9 months of filming, the actors and staff truly lived-out the premise of the film, which was that “the people you eat with make a meal special – not the meal itself,” according to Newell quoted in IndieWire.

It stars notable Chicago actors including Desmin Borges (Living with Yourself, Private Life), who graduated from The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, and David Pasquesi (Veep, Groundhog Day), awarded the 1989 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actor in a Revue for The Gods Must Be Lazy at the Second City Theatre. As well as, Joel Murray (Mad Men, Shameless, Vendors) who owns a restaurant near Chicago’s O’Hare called Caddyshack, and TJ Jagodowski (Get Hard, Computer Hackers).

“I’m excited that we have signed on with Cow Lamp Films to bring the film to new audiences that are going to love it. Open Tables screened very well across the country (and internationally) at film festivals to usually soldout crowds. It’s a great film to watch when you have friends over for dinner. Like a good meal, it’s a film that is made with a lot of love, and I’m looking forward to more people getting the opportunity to see it,” said Newell, Director and Writer of Open Tables.

The Chicago Tribune’s Nina Metz called it “dinner with a side of romantic tension.”

The full list of restaurants featured in Open Tables are:

5411 Empanadas


Antique Taco

Big Shoulders Coffee


The Boarding House

Boiler Room

The Bristol

Elaine’s Coffee Call

Fat Rice


Goddess and Grocer

Graham Elliot

Home Bistro


Longman & Eagle

Perennial Virant




Storefront Company


Table, Donkey and Stick

Table Fifty-Two




The Violet Hour

Close Quarters:

Jack Newell’s movie, Close Quarters (2012), was also signed by Cow Lamp Films.  The film was 100 percent improvised. It explores life through two young baristas, who are forced to work an extra shift. They must come to terms with their own relationship while being bombarded by the very different issues of their diverse customers

Close Quarters

Close Quarters includes some of the same actors from Open Tables including  David Pasquesi andTJ Jagodowski, as well as other Chicago talent like Tim Kazurinsky (Saturday Night Live, Police Academy), who was nominated for BAFTA Award and WGA Award, and appeared on Broadway in critically-acclaimed comedy, An Act of God, and Greg Hollimon (Strangers with Candy, The Fugitive, Black Magic).

The production built a coffee shop in an abandoned storefront at Sheffield & Barry in Chicago – over the course of the 11 day production, they had 127 people interrupt shooting because they thought the coffee shop was real. No coffee was served to these people, but maybe a few laughs.

“It’s fitting that we are distributing Close Quarters through Cow Lamp Films because it’s a uniquely Chicago Film – we embraced the Chicago art form of improvisation when we made this. The film is completely improvised and features the best improvisers on the planet earth. Cow Lamp is the best Chicago-based distributor and so it’s a marriage made in Chicago-Heaven. Close Quarters is the hot dog, Cow Lamp films is the mustard, “ said Newell, Director of Close Quarters. 

Close Quarters and Open Tables are both currently available on Amazon. For updates and availability, check out Cow Lamp Films.  Open Tables won Best Feature Ensemble at the L.A. Comedy Festival and  Best of Fest, Best Narrative Feature and Best Screenplay at Blue Whisky Independent Film Festival. Close Quarters won Best Actor for TJ Jagodowski , Best Actress for Susan Messingand Best Editing for Jill DiBiase at Midwest Independent Film Festival.


Jack C. Newell is a Chicago-based, award-winning writer, director, producer, actor, and public artist. He is the Program Director of The Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City, the co-creator of Destroy Your Art, and the co-creator of the public art project, The Wabash Lights.

His films have been featured at the Sidewalk Film Festival, Bend Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, and on Netflix.


Cow Lamp Films is the Midwest’s first and only full-service, independent film and television distributor. Cow Lamp Films provides the full-service distribution opportunities to independent filmmakers that are difficult to access without the support of large studios.




    The Chicago Film Scene is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to supporting local Chicago film productions.


    The Chicago Film Scene is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to supporting local Chicago film productions.

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