Music Box Theatre

3733 N. Southport Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60613

Unfavorite 64 people favorited this theater

Showing 51 - 75 of 79 comments

KingBiscuits on December 31, 2008 at 6:23 am

Do the owners of this theatre also run Music Box Films (the US distributors of films such as Tell No One and OSS 117) or is that company run by other Chicago people who happened to name their company after the theatre?

MPol on December 27, 2008 at 1:42 pm

What a fabulous-looking theatre!! Sure wish there were more of these great varied-movie movie palaces here in the United States, including Boston.

ncmark on October 14, 2008 at 9:37 pm

This is probably my favorite movie theater anywhere. Always a great mix of art and classic films presented in one of the most charming small scale atmospheric theaters I’ve seen. I attend films here often and would be crushed if the Music Box were to ever go away.

I do usually find things that could be improved upon though. The beautiful light fixtures always have lots of burned out bulbs. The electric stars in the ceiling were down to about 5 until a recent relamping got most of them back in order. The cloud projection equipment is either gone or hasn’t worked in some time. The sound system isn’t always great but that’s probably due to the film prints rather than the house sound system. None the less, attending a film at the Music Box is always a treat and any theater architecture buff visiting Chicago should make a trip inside to enjoy a show.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 18, 2008 at 11:00 am

Great post, David.

I was only at the Music Box once, and your report really captured the vibe of a unique theater run by people who truly love movies and showmanship. Well done.

DavidZornig on August 18, 2008 at 10:47 am

The Music Box is the grand dame of continuing art houses. When the Parkway Theatre closed, the Music Box was pretty much one of the last places that ran different double features every day. With a colorful flyers in each week’s Reader newspaper.
Foreign films, `60’s cult comedies, chick flicks, holiday fare, you name it. A very classy, vintage place that is exceptionally run to this day.

They started doing some “Grease” sing-a-longs about 2 years ago. Possibly “Wizard Of Oz” as well.

Maybe 3 years ago, they tried out a midnight run of “Xanadu”, with what they claimed as good results. It played on the smaller screen to the right and front of the theatre. The one that was converted from retail space.

I’m an old ELO fan, and had a bunch of oddball “Xanadu” memoribilia.
On a whim I approached the Music Box about possibly having a table in the lobby, for “Xanadu” fans to peruse said stuff as they came and went. The Music Box staff didn’t even hesitate to say what time, and what size table did I need? I did it both nights.

The lobby was stunning in it’s original decor, and lit up beautifully. There is an interior ticket & concession counter to the right as you enter the theatre.
Plaster ornamentation that needs to be seen to be appreciated fully.

What I somehow failed to notice was the main midnight feature was the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.
The original granddaddy of a cult following. One that I saw only when it originally came out. An onstage re-enactment was also apparently planned.

I was set up with an 8 foot table in front of a radiator with a power source behind. Good interest in my little display, mostly by parents whose children were fascinated by “Xanadu”.
Some on skates.

Also unbeknownst to me, was apparently the “Rocky Horror” convention was in town. Then…up pulled the buses. And out came the RHPS revelers in a non stop, full on costumed stream.

Suddenly out of nowhere, Music Box staff & added concert like security with military precision, herded the group into two lines-male & female. All the while shouting instructions on expected behavior. “You may not throw toast”, etc.
The oddity of my presence, coupled with this added element in this beautiful old theatre setting, could have been the basis for it’s own independent flick.
To have a dude in full drag make up, pause with his girlfriend looking at an ONJ picture disc deadpan, and just say “oh yeah, Xanadu” then calmly walk away was surreal.
I felt like Brian Wilson must have when Phil Spector first said, “yeah, I’ve heard your stuff”.

The Music Box has stood the test of time, and given Southport’s kind of big money revival, condos/retail, it will hopefully be around forever.
I seem to remember reading of tough times in the `80’s, but all seems well now.

RobinW on February 11, 2008 at 8:29 pm

This may seem odd, but I am probably one of the (very) few deaf people posting on this site! I enjoy movies and I enjoy going to the movies just as much as “hearing people” do. They show foreign films here, which are really the only movies that I can see in a theatre.

I have also been to the Landmark Century Cinema on Clark Street, the Wilmette, and the LaGrange (my husband and I saw “Letters From Iwo Jima there). But, I love the Music Box Theatre the best out of all of these! It has a lot of charm and character and it appears to be run by people who actually like film. And it’s not cut-up like the LaGrange or the Wilmette. I recently saw a re-issue of "The 400 Blows” here and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jonah on December 31, 2007 at 5:58 pm

Has anyone else noticed a problem recently (past few years) with the house lights being too bright during screenings?

alex35mm on November 28, 2007 at 2:08 pm

The music box runs most movies in Dolby Surround (analog surround) in the large auditorium which is equipped with Left,Center,Right and mono surrounds speakers. The system could use a good calibration and adjustment which would make a massive difference, as well a few minor speaker replacements. At little as three years ago the system sounded impressive for a theater of its era.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 3, 2007 at 1:04 pm

I dont remember the sound being off when I saw “Vertigo” there but it is some excellent location for the Blade Runner revival.

cubdukat on November 1, 2007 at 6:47 pm

Does anyone know if they upgraded the sound system in the big theatre? I’m going to see “Blade Runner: The Final Cut” there, and somehow I doubt it’ll be presented in 5.1. The audio in that theatre has always been distorted for as long as I can remember. It’s just a shame Warner Bros. didn’t pick a more technically-capable but equally beautiful theatre to show it at.

studiobrian on August 25, 2007 at 11:49 pm

Here is a rather artistic interpretation of the Music Box Theater.

CHICTH74 on July 20, 2007 at 12:23 am

Also i was told that the Musie Box was one of if not the first to use neon on the vertical sign.
Is this true? thank you for your time :)

CHICTH74 on July 20, 2007 at 12:19 am

From what i have ben told the Music Box is the sister to the Ramova in the Bridgeport neghborghood, and that Charlie Chaplin had two movies premiered at bouth theatres.

ctd on April 16, 2007 at 7:48 am

The Music Box Theatre is where I first discovered the annual Festival of Animation, and where I saw anime on the big screen for the first time with “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”. It’s my favorite atmospheric style theater, and I’ll probably see a movie there when I visit Chicago this year.

Great pics and posts, everyone.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 31, 2006 at 7:01 pm

Saw Vertigo here last year; auditorium is lovely. And took a peek at the mini-cinema, which is wildy decorated like an outdoor garden (I think). It was great to a see a 100 seat “atmospheric.”

Broan on November 17, 2006 at 9:52 am

Here is a recent photo of the Music Box’s second screen.

Broan on November 28, 2005 at 12:31 pm

The Music Box was originally announced with the name “New Blaine” in the August 30, 1928 Tribune on p19. A rendering appeared in the October 28 edition on page B4. In both articles, Louis I. Simon (not A) and Edward Steinborn are named as architects. Steinborn was likely the engineer. Louis I. Simon is also named elsewhere as architect of several other Chicago buildings, so I think this clears up the confusion with Louis A. Simon, who was a major government architect. This was further confirmed in an August 14, 1983 article when Louis I. Simon’s son wrote in to inform that his father had built it.

shoeshoe14 on October 18, 2005 at 5:55 pm

The movie, High Fidelity (2000) starring John Cusack, had a scene in which he and his then girlfriend sat in the theater. The marquee was shown in the next scene. I immediately went on here and found it.

mdunn18947 on August 3, 2005 at 11:41 am

In the mid 1980s, I would regularly trek up to the Music Box for their classic double features – everything from The Thin Man series to Mad Max. The theater’s architectural detail was amazing as was the popcorn with real Land O' Lakes butter!

reiermann on July 14, 2005 at 7:44 am

The Music Box is a neat theater and brings back the golden era of moviegoing. The floating clouds and twinkling lights are a great touch. Of course the theater’s best feature is the great selection of movies that are always presented here. There really is no other theater like it in the city. Having said that, the sound system is awful. I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve always had problems hearing dialogue here because the sound echoes all over the place. The seats are so uncomfortable and the sight-lines terrible. If someone sits in front of you even three or four aisles in front of you, you cannot see the bottom of the screen (especially bad if watching a film with subtitles).

jamarshall on March 26, 2005 at 2:36 pm

I love the Music Box, and have missed it a lot since moving away from Chicago in 1998. I loved the floating cloud on the ceiling and the lights that look like stars. The movies were exceptional. I hope that the new management is keeping things going as well as they were.

James Colburn
James Colburn on January 15, 2005 at 9:56 pm

What a Show Piece! That is what Theatre should look like!

whitehall on August 21, 2004 at 6:19 pm

I lived three blocks from the Music Box from 1995 to 1997. During that time I loved the Music Box. It was a real treat to attend movies there on snowy weekend days or even just to walk past and see the marvellous detail in the theater facade and connecting building and storefronts. This is a real success story in the world of theater preservation!