Music Box Theatre

3733 N. Southport Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60613

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Music Box Theatre

Located in the bustling Southport area of Chicago’s Lakeview district. When it was opened on August 22, 1929 with Morton Downey in “Mothers Boy”, the Music Box Theatre was considered small compared to the much larger movie palaces that were being built in Chicago around that time. Many of these larger theatres, like the Uptown Theatre, were often too large to stay in business throughout the rest of the 20th century.

The Music Box Theatre was designed in an Atmospheric style which was themed with a Spanish Renaissance style, the work of architects Louis I. Simon & Edward Steinborn. It was designed and opened as a ‘talkie’ theatre, but had provision for organ chambers to hold the pipes, which were not put to use until 1984 when a custom made 3 manual electronic organ was installed with its speakers housed in the organ chambers.

The Music Box Theatre later played mainly second and third-run movies as well as closing and reopening several times. The theatre had become more than a bit rough around the edges when it was closed on July 16, 1978 with William Holden “Omen II: Damien”. It then went over to screening Spanish Language movies, porn movies and Arabic movies.

Renovated in 1982, the Music Box Theatre reopened in 1983 and has been showing an eclectic mix of classic, foreign, and art house films ever since. In 1991, a small theatre was built in an existing storefront adjacent to the lobby. This second screen was designed to echo the architecture of the main auditorium, as an Atmospheric style, but because of the 13-foot ceiling height, the feel is that of sitting under a garden trellis with stars in the night sky beyond.

The Music Box Theatres hosts several Film Festivals each year: Chicago Critics Film Festival, Chicago Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 70mm Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival.

Contributed by Alan Van Landschoot, Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 78 comments)

Broan on June 5, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Must have been a typo, it was actually August 21. It’s not in that archive – not a complete archive – but I’ve posted it in the photos section.

Broan on June 5, 2016 at 3:53 pm

It also looks like Louis I. Simon was really more of a structural engineer so Edward Steinborn may deserve more credit as design architect.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on July 27, 2016 at 1:09 am

Haven’t been here in years. But my memory is that the concession stand was designed to blend with the lobby design. Hopefully whatever they put in during this renovation fits just as well.

rivest266 on November 13, 2016 at 7:32 am

This opened on August 5th, 1983. Its grand opening ad can be found in the photo section. No ad found on August 22nd, 1929.

Trolleyguy on June 18, 2017 at 8:44 pm

The Music Box will be showing “2001:A Space Odyssey” in 70mm June 30-July 6.

HowardBHaas on June 19, 2017 at 3:54 am

Yes, and many other films in 70mm in this year’s festival. Hook. Sleeping Beauty. Top Gun. The Agony and the Ecstasy. Spartacus. Interstellar. Lord Jim. West Side Story. Short Cuts. Kong: Skull Island. Top Gun. West Side Story.

DavidZornig on February 3, 2018 at 10:54 am

Link to news story about the new marquee with video.

DavidZornig on February 3, 2018 at 2:43 pm

Still works for me. You have to left click to highlight, and right click to Open Link in New Tab or New Window.

Homeboy on July 1, 2018 at 9:15 pm

The new marquee was created by Landmark Sign Group of Chesterton, Indiana. Art director was Jerry Lefere. Senior Technical Engineer was Terry Ambrosini. Many of the zinc castings were supplied by W. F. Norman Corp. of Nevada, Missouri and were identical to the originals. The center urn and scrolls were salvaged from the original marquee and reinstalled on the new structure.

DavidZornig on February 18, 2019 at 11:56 am

Flickr link with a 1970’s black marquee photo.

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