Music Box Theatre

3733 N. Southport Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60613

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Showing 51 - 75 of 75 comments

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on August 18, 2008 at 6:47 pm

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
RobinW on February 12, 2008 at 4:29 am

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
Jonah on January 1, 2008 at 1:58 am

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

alex35mm
alex35mm on November 28, 2007 at 10:08 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 8:04 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
cubdukat on November 2, 2007 at 1:47 am

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
studiobrian on August 26, 2007 at 7:49 am

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

CHICTH74
CHICTH74 on July 20, 2007 at 8:23 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
CHICTH74 on July 20, 2007 at 8:19 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
ctd on April 16, 2007 at 3:48 pm

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 January 1, 2007 at 3:01 am

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
Broan on November 17, 2006 at 5:52 pm

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

Broan
Broan on November 28, 2005 at 8:31 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
shoeshoe14 on October 19, 2005 at 1:55 am

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
mdunn18947 on August 3, 2005 at 7:41 pm

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
reiermann on July 14, 2005 at 3:44 pm

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
jamarshall on March 26, 2005 at 10:36 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 16, 2005 at 5:56 am

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

whitehall
whitehall on August 22, 2004 at 2:19 am

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!

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 16, 2004 at 4:51 pm

The Music Box is now under new management. The partners who in 1983 leased and renovated the building and subsequently maintained the highest standards of presentation and spared no expense to create one of the best cinema experiences available anywhere were unable to negotiate a new lease with the building’s owner. The owner now plans to operate the Music Box himself though he has no experience in the field. Wishing him the best.

He has big shoes to fill. But of course, they’re his shoes.

richardg
richardg on April 15, 2004 at 2:24 am

The first time I was in the Music Box was 1961 when I saw “A Rasin In The Sun”. As a young person I was never impressed by the Music Box, but remember, this is Chicago which had neighborhood theatres of 5000 seats (The Uptown) and many neighborhood theatres that sat over 3000. I also found its open vertical like the Covent theatre looking rather unfinished.
However since 1961, I’ve been in a lot of mega-plexes and in comparison The Music Box looks great. I re-visited The Music Box about 15 years ago and it looked terrific. Although I’m still not fond of its open vertical and it’s lack of a balcony, I wish I owned it.
In 196l, The Southport area was certainly not prime Chicago real estate but luckily the neighborhood started to become trendy and The Music Box sucessfully re-opened.
Ah! if we could only predict real estate trends we all be wealthy and own prospering theatres.
Until its re-opening, The Music Box was never a first run house. All major releases premiered at downtown theatres (there were a few exceptions like “B” horror films) and then went to 2nd run movie palaces like the Uptown, Century, Gateway, and other 2000+ seat theatres. Along with the “A” film previously released downtown you got to see a “B” film for one admission. Smaller neighborhood independant theatres like the Music Box got films after they played at the large neighborhood houses for one to two weeks.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on February 20, 2004 at 4:12 pm

Lest anyone panic, the 2nd screen was added by opening into retail space adjacent to the lobby. The main auditorium remains in excellent condition thanks to the talent, forsight and hard work of the current management (who cannot be commended enough!).

The Music Box never had an organ until an electronic theatre style organ was installed in the early 1980’s. As with many smaller theaters built at the end of the 1920’s provision was made for installing an organ later, should talkies have proven to be only a fad. Later, air conditioning equipment was installed in the organ chambers.

Both lobby and auditorium were built in atmospheric style, with a Spanish flavor to the side wall architecture.

The Music Box projection booth is a technical tour-de-force equipped to show 16mm, 35mm, and 70mm film as well as 3-D and silent at original speed. Sound equipment includes regular optical, magentic stereo and digital.

petrix
petrix on August 27, 2002 at 3:54 am

For more photos of the Music Box Theatre, visit my website at http://www.petrixphoto.com/musicbox/index.html