Opened in 1929, the two theaters at the Music Box remain in their original design. Located on Southport Ave in the LakeView neighborhood, it hosts current and classic films. Community events such as film festivals are frequently held at the site. (Una Cleary)
Opened in 1929, the two theaters at the Music Box remain in their original design. Located on Southport Ave in the LakeView neighborhood, it hosts current and classic films. Community events such as film festivals are frequently held at the site.

Una Cleary

Chicago made cinema

November 7, 2022

Chicago, a city renowned for its music, art, and theater has become a hub for the international film community. There is no better example of this than Chicago’s wonderful independent theaters. 

These theaters not only show trendy new releases, but they are some of the only places to see international and independent movies on the big screen and not streaming in your living room. Some host festivals or retrospectives are focused on specific directors, which are experiences you can not get at a chain theater.

Here are some of the best theaters near DePaul’s campuses.

Facets

Located at 1517 W Fullerton Ave., Facets is by far the closest theater to DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus. Facets concentrates on the independent and obscure where viewers can see movies that no other theater is playing. Open on weekends only, Facets is not an option for a weeknight movie.

The programing at Facets is artful, with many film festivals to give independent filmmakers an opportunity to shine. Starting Nov. 4th and running through the 20th, Facets is hosting the 39th International Children’s Film Festival, which they created to show children unique and international films. 

Una Cleary

The theater will occasionally show classic movies and some more obscure new releases. Facets was one of the few theaters in the city that showed Phil Tippett’s stop motion fever dream “Mad God” when it was released over the summer.  

While Facets is the most niche theater on this list, the people who resonate with the artistic and unique programing will absolutely love it and its proximity to the Lincoln Park campus.

Davis 

Located in Lincoln Square at 4614 N Lincoln Ave., the Davis Theater is one of the oldest movie theaters in Chicago, built in 1918. The Davis usually shows first runs of movies and occasionally shows second runs and older films. 

The theater has comfortable seats for such an old venue due to renovation in 2016. This might not sound like a big deal, but when you are spending two hours or more sitting in one place you want to do so in comfort.  

“I saw ‘Tár’ at the Davis recently and had a great time,” DePaul junior and film major Haydon Mayer said. “It was a super nice theater but not in a very showy way. The only movies screening that day were ‘Tár’ and ‘Black Adam,’ which I thought was a pretty diverse selection.” 

The Davis shows movies played at bigger theaters such as AMC with the advantage of a smaller theater. This makes it a great option to see the newest superhero blockbuster while still supporting a local business. As much as the other theaters on this list are amazing, it is very unlikely that you would be able to see the new “Fast and the Furious” or “James Bond” at them. The Davis Theater gives you the great independent theater experience while showing things that appeal to most people, not just arthouse or cult movies.

Siskel Center

The Gene Siskel Film Center is located right across the street from the Chicago Theatre at 164 N State St. The Film Center was built in 2001, making it the newest theater on this list. The Film Center is a part of The School of the Art Institute. It is always open to the public for the many screenings it hosts. 

Prices compared to mainstream theaters are far more accessible. (Una Cleary)

“We want to show movies that have beautiful cinematography, amazing characters, and all the other things that make us love the art of movies,” said Jean de St Aubin, executive director at The Gene Siskel Film Center. 

The Siskel Center has two screens housed in medium-sized theaters, which are some of the swankiest in Chicago. The seats are very comfortable, the sound system is state of the art, and the theaters project on both film and digital.

Jean de St. Aubin is the executive director of the Siskel Center and has been working there since 2003. “Since the pandemic, we have noticed a lot more people coming to our new releases, but our retrospectives still have the best turn out,” de St. Aubin said. “We reopened with a Fellini retrospective in 2021 and were very happy to see such a mixed crowd of people young and old coming to see some great movies. We just wrapped up a Del Toro Retrospective in October that was a lot of fun.”

The Siskel Center’s programming is a huge draw to the theater. New releases, film festivals, restorations, and retrospectives make up the screening calendar. Whether you want to see a restoration of a classic, like the 50th anniversary re-release “The Godfather” in April, or Park Chan-Wook’s new movie “Decision to Leave,” the Siskel Center has you covered.

De St. Aubin feels that a place like The Siskel Center is important for the film community and casual moviegoers alike. 

“Particularly for film students, it informs your own work to see what the masters have done,” de St. Aubin said. “As you develop your own voice, it is very important to experience well made and relevant movies. And to everyone that isn’t a film student, we just show good movies that are worth watching.” 

The Siskel Center is truly a theater for people who love movies. The programming is chock-full of amazing shows with student discounts that can not be beat.

Music Box

Independent theaters such as the Music Box provide a unique experience for the Chicago film community. (Una Cleary)

At 3733 N Southport Ave. in the Lakeview neighborhood, Music Box has become the premiere place to watch movies in the city. The theater opened in 1929 and boasts two screens, the first of which is in the original theater space and the second is in a smaller, more intimate screening room. 

Music Box shows just about everything, from first run movies to old film prints of classics and a plethora of festivals and special events throughout the year. 

Music Box shows a great mix of old and new, where you can watch a newly released movie in the same place where you can see a 70mm print of “2001 A Space Odyssey” during Music Box’s annual 70mm film festival. Every night in October, the theater screened horror movies in the Halloween spirit, giving horror fans a rare opportunity to experience these movies in a theater.

“In May I got to see ‘28 Days Later’ on film,” DePaul junior and criminology student Alyson O’Leary said. “It is one of my favorite movies and seeing it in a theater was really cool. I think my favorite part about Music Box is that they will always have some cult or horror movie playing, and I’ve had fun every time I go.” 

This commitment to showing new movies and classics is why many Chicago residents love Music Box. 

The David Lynch Complete Retrospective this past April was a week long event where almost every Lynch directed project was shown to sold out audiences. Music Box provides a new imaginative way to watch movies on the big screen.

Additionally, Music Box partners with DePaul for some of their events, giving free admission to DePaul students who show their student ID. 

Previous examples of these events were Highs and Lows, a series of double features that paired high brow art movies with low brow comedies, and Hell on the Homestead, a series of unconventional and revisionist Westerns.

Music Box has also hosted DePaul student film festivals in the past, like the 2019 Premiere Film Festival.  Music Box is truly an experience. The gorgeous theater sets the mood perfectly for seeing a rare film print of some cult movie from the ‘80s. 

The movies shown here are definitely catering to the invested film nerd crowd, but it is hard to go there and not have a good time.

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