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 Kung Fu movies when the last of these before closing on November 24, 1978 was Bruce Lee in “The Dragon Lives”. It then screened Arabic movies.

Renovated in 1982, the Music Box Theatre reopened on August 5, 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 83 comments)

HowardBHaas on June 19, 2017 at 11:54 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 6:54 pm

Link to news story about the new marquee with video.

DavidZornig on February 3, 2018 at 10:43 pm

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

Alan Bell
Alan Bell on July 2, 2018 at 5:15 am

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 7:56 pm

Flickr link with a 1970’s black marquee photo.

DavidZornig on March 7, 2021 at 5:08 pm

TimeOut Magazine named Music Box one of the 50 most beautiful cinemas on the planet.

DavidZornig on October 13, 2022 at 3:43 pm

Chicago International Film Festival logo projected on the facade of the Music Box, October 12, 2022. Credit Robert Loerzel on Twitter.

DavidZornig on August 6, 2023 at 5:45 pm

Reopened 40 years ago yesterday, August 5, 1983. Photos added credit Anne Cusack, Chicago Tribune.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on October 2, 2023 at 12:47 pm

I added a newspaper ad in the photo section of the Chicago newspaper ad for THE DRAGON LIVES; a kung fu movie that appears to be the last movie at the Music Box Theatre before closing. Friday, November 24, 1978. It more than likely was playing on a double feature; however, the Music Box did not advertise in the Chicago Tribune during its final year of operation before becoming an Arab-operated business.

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