My first visit to Chicago’s Music Box Theatre was in college. Attending DePaul University in nearby Lincoln Park, I was enrolled in a film studies class that required us to review a film from the concurrent International Film Festival. A fellow student and I chose an Italian comedy that matched all our criteria: the theatre was nearby and the show time wasn’t sold out. The film is now one of my top ten favorites but I think the theater’s ambience contributed to my enjoyment.
The Music Box is an independent movie theatre built in 1929 and provides a comfort incomparable to the modern theatres. Standing under the marquee on Southport Avenue, feeling the heat of the lights on a brisk autumn evening, we waited for the doors to open before slowly filtering into the lobby. I was immediately struck by the intimacy. Along the right side sat a small box office window booth and a minimal concession stand. A velvet rope divided the area between the popcorn buyers and the waiting area. The entire lobby is drenched in rich reds and gold with ornate carpeting and intricate wall carvings. Our film was shown in the smaller room, which I learned was added to the theatre in 1991. As we settled into our seats, soft Italian chatter emitted from neighboring patrons. The festival attracted a wonderfully diverse population of culture. Reading the subtitles left us a beat behind those who understood the language but I never felt more in accord.
I continue to visit the Music Box for various festivals and special features. My recent favorite is “Brand Upon the Brain”, a silent film guest narrated by Crispin Glover complete with an 11-piece orchestra and live sound effects. I also attend several of the infamous sing-alongs that occur throughout each year in the main auditorium, including the Sound of Music and the seasonal appropriate White Christmas. The auditorium houses over 800 guests and features a painted sky ceiling with rolling clouds and twinkling stars. Although no bad view exists, the assigned seating for special events allows you to purchase your favorite spot and provides easy planning for large groups.
The Music Box Theatre is located at 3733 N. Southport in Chicago, Illinois. Showtimes vary based on the day. Weekends typically feature midnight showings as well as matinees. Tickets are $9.25 each or $5 on Mondays with buy one get one free popcorn and soda discounts. Cash only. Visit www.musicboxtheatre.com for more information.