Watching movies at the local multiplex gets less and less appealing every time I go, the screens are getting smaller and smaller, people talk during the whole movie. But here are a few suggestions for some out of the ordinary places to see films in Chicago:
The Music Box Theater, 3733 N. Southport, is a great place to see classic, independent and cult movies, the occasional sing along such as Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music, and Midnight Movies on weekends. At Christmas time they show It's a Wonderful Life and White Christmas, the show we saw was sold out so it's a good idea to get advance tickets and get them early as it's assigned seats. iA great place to grab dinner before/after the show is Tango Sur
Facets, located at 1517 W. Fullerton, is another theater showing mostly foreign films and documentaries, also has a very large selection of videos/DVDs to rent, both walk in and by mail.
Located in the theater district at 164 N. State St. is the Gene Siskel Film Center, renamed in honor of the late film critic of Siskel & Ebert fame. You'll find foreign and classic film screenings here.
When the Vic Theater, 3145 N. Sheffield (at Belmont), isn't hosting concerts or other events, it opens up as Brew & View where you can see 2 or 3 films for the bargain price of $5. Since they serve alcohol you have to be over 18 to enter, over 21 to drink.
A few more suggestions that I've not visited:
Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee
The Village North Theater, 6746 N. Sheridan Rd
Cascade Drive-in, 1110 E. North Ave., West Chicago, you have to (obviously) have a car for this one, one of the few drive in movie theaters left in the area
Ra Sushi, 1139 N. State, Toyko Tuesdays, from 8 pm-midnight watch Godzilla films while munching on sushi
Frequently in the Friday section of the Chicago Tribune (probably also the Sun Times and the Reader) you will see ads for free movie screenings before the film is in general release. I had never paid much attention to them since you usually have to go to a bookstore to get the passes but I saw one for "Finding Neverland" that they were handing out at the Border's I pass by every morning so I went and grabbed a free pass for my husband and me.
We arrived about a 1/2 hour early and most of the seats were either already filled or reserved by others sitting there, one guy even brought tape!!!! So we ended up in the 3rd row, not such a horrible thing when it's Johnny Depp that you are watching :-)
A wonderful way to see a second run movie. You can yell at the screen, eat pizza, and drink. This is a local hangout in a fun neighborhood.
Friday & Saturdays: $2.25 Well Drinks
Sundays: $2.50 Call Drinks
Mondays: $2.00 Shots & $4 Long Islands
Tuesdays: $2.00 off Pitchers
Wednesdays: $2.00 Shots & $4 Long Islands
Thursdays: $1.50 drafts of MGD & Lite
The new theatres that are popping up may have advanced sound and stadium seating, but they certainly do not have the charm and character that the Music Box has. Where else in Chicago could you expect to watch a 3-D porno at midnight, attend a Sound of Music or Wizard of Oz singalong, and see a myriad of foreign and classic film?
The Music Box was built in 1929, and you can read a great history at the website listed below.
There are 2 screens: The big theatre is where the organist plays on the weekends. A projection of clouds roll by on the blue ceiling, w/ tiny lights that "twinkle" to look like stars.
The smaller one is definitely small- about 100 seats?
I find the seats to be kind of uncomfortable if seated for longer than a couple hours, but hey! Since when are movie theatre seats supposed to be comfortable?
Tickets are $9.25, weekend matinees @ 11:30am are $7.25, 1st show of the day (Mon-Thurs): $8.25
FYI--> If you plan on watching movies there frequently, pick up the discount card that they offer. It's $33, and you can watch 5 movies within six months. You can use up to 2 admissions for each viewing. So you save a bit of cash... it's worth it!
Parking can be tricky on evenings and weekends. Although I know people who park at the Jewel-Osco, I wouldn't recommend it for fear of getting towed. I think the meters on Southport need coins on Sunday now. You can take several buses and the Addison Brown line is close by as well.
If you sign up for the email newsletter, you occasionally have the chance to win free passes (I've won twice), which is pretty damn cool.
Dress Code: standard dress code: shirt, pants, shoes-- you know...
I don't see a lot of movies at the theater anymore unless it's just something that requires the big screen experience, like a James Bond movie or something with gorgeous scenery or costuming. But if I do go, I like the Show Place Icon theaters on Roosevelt Road. The seats are very comfortable and are stadium style so you don't end up with someone's head blocking your view, you have a reserved seat that you can select ahead of time online with no extra fee.
For me the theater is easy to get to and there's free parking in a garage, no validation necessary.
I haven't looked into the VIP tickets, the shows are expensive enough without paying more for the VIP experience but it appears that you can eat and drink alcohol in that section with a table to put your plates and glasses on.
Dress Code: You just have to be wearing something
On our 2nd night in Chicago, Ian & I decided to dine at Joe's Stone Crab (I wanted him to have a great meal in a great atmosphere but with dressy casual attire), then we rode the El around the Loop, took the trolley to Navy Pier, then walked back to AMC Theatre to watch the latest Terminator movie. Not a bad weekend night for a teenager, don't you think? And then we rode a late night bus back to Lincoln Park Zoo and walked back to the hotel.
Wonderful town, Chicago, with it's all-night Metro and (some) bus system! Not to mention having a full-scale movie theater downtown (something we don't have in Cincinnati - the closest thing is our art house theatre in Clifton). But I suppose this is one of the reasons Ian deemed Chicago to be a REAL city!
$22.50 for 2 tickets plus $13.75 for 1 medium popcorn ($5.75 - geez!), 1 medium drink ($4.25 - Good Lord), 1 Fuze ($3.75 - actually cheapest - who'da thunk?). About $36 for the entire movie experience.
Weird thing is that they have a butter dispenser off by the napkins & such so that you could butter your own popcorn; not something we do here in Ohio.
We called ahead that day to order tickets for us and they held them for us at the theatre. Very nice!
Photo: June 2009
Dress Code: Casual