Chicago’s Music Box Theatre Celebrates 90th Anniversary with Special Programming

Image courtesy: Music Box Theatre


Chicago, IL – July 30, 2019: Music Box Theatre, the landmark Chicago movie palace showcasing independent, classic and foreign films, will mark 90 years on Southport Avenue on August 22, 2019.

The theater’s programming blend of offbeat first-run features, thematic film festivals, cult midnight movies, silent film matinees, family sing-a-longs, rare 70mm bookings, and its award-winning social engagement continues to draw people from across the city and the region to the independently owned and operated movie theater. To celebrate this 90-year milestone, Music Box Theatre will host a week of special programs August 22-29, with celebrity guests and a roster of “Very Music Box-y” programming. For details, visit the 90th anniversary microsite at

“It’s remarkable that a 700-seat neighborhood movie theater still exists, much less thrives, in this day of mall metroplexes and digital streaming competing for viewers’ attention,” says owner William Schopf. “I believe it’s a testament to both Chicagoans’ demand for a quality entertainment experience, and to our staff’s innovative programming that appeals to so many different audiences.”

The theater’s marquee first illuminated Southport Avenue on August 22, 1929—at the dawn of movie “talkies” and two weeks before the Great Depression—when the venue opened as a single-screen, 800-seat, sound-equipped theater, a scaled-down neighborhood version of the 3,000-seat downtown movie palaces. Its auditorium, an “atmospheric” architectural hodgepodge comprising plaster columns, arches, ogees, and a dark blue “sky” with twinkling stars, creates the effect of watching movies in an open-air Tuscan palazzo. The Music Box Theatre came under the ownership of William Schopf in 1986 and has since expanded into a second, 70-seat theater and added a lounge with full bar and courtyard.

Special events for the anniversary week will include:

  *   Opening night: Innocents of Paris: When Music Box Theatre opened in 1929, it was the city’s first dedicated talkie house. In honor of its opening on August 22, 1929, Music Box kicks off its anniversary week with a program of selected shorts that encompasses the range of sights and sounds theatergoers enjoyed 90 years ago, followed by Maurice Chevalier’s American debut in 1929’s Innocents of Paris, playing a singing junkman whose ascent to a fancy music hall threatens his romance with Louise (Sylvia Beecher). August 22.

  *   Filmmaker Andrew Davis in Person. Renowned Chicago-born director Andrew Davis will present his classic The Fugitive and discuss with the audience the film’s making in Chicago in 1993. Friday, August 23.

  *   Silent Cinema. Making great use of the theater’s grand organ, there will be a Saturday afternoon screening of the rarely seen silent 1931 “city symphony” World City in Its Teens: A Report on Chicago <>, with live accompaniment by house organist Dennis Scott. Saturday afternoon, August 24.

  *   “Nine to Five” Movie Marathon. This “Very Music Box-y” program features four back-to-back Dolly Parton titles: Nine of Five, Rhinestone, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Straight Talk (starring Parton as a 1982 Chicago radio host). In true Music Box fashion, the overnight marathon begins Saturday at 9 pm and concludes Sunday morning at 5 am. August 24-25

  *   Mary Poppins Sing-A-Long. The theater’s signature Sing-A-Long programs, such as the original Sing-A-Long Sound of Music, draw crowds from across the region. This new Sing-A-Long, with on-screen lyrics to the classic 1964 Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke Disney musical, will include costume contests, interactive fun packs, and special guests. Noon, Sunday, August 25

  *   Music Box of Horrors. As a tip of the hockey mask to its annual Halloween-time 24-hour horror movie marathon, the Music Box welcomes director Brian Yuzna screening his personal 35mm print of his 1989 upper-crust indie cult classic Society. Sunday, August 25

  *   Music Box Films Night. The theater’s sister company Music Box Films is the distributor of foreign and independent fare including the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2015 Oscar winner Ida, French blockbuster Tell No One, and Terence Davies’s A Quiet Passion. In appreciation, the theater will exhibit a 35mm revival of two Music Box Films releases—Davies’s The Deep Blue Sea and Paweł Pawlikowski’s Ida —on Tuesday, August 27.

  *   Audience Choice Double Feature. Hearkening back to the Music Box’s incarnation as a double-feature revival house between 1983 and 1987, the Music Box reincarnates a coveted double feature selected by Music Box fans. Through two rounds of online voting, thousands of fans selected their favorite program from among hundreds of double features. The winners are an ’80s sci-fi adventure, with James Cameron’s The Terminator and Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop showing on Wednesday, August 28.

  *   70mm Back to the Future II. Music Box—currently one of five theaters in the world to be showing Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood in 70mm—is one of the world’s last remaining theaters with the ability to show 70mm film and was the first ever to present a dedicated 70mm Film Festival, now one of its most anticipated regular traditions. Music Box commissioned its own 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey, recently presented an exclusive 70mm engagement of Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-winning Roma and broke national box office records with special 70mm engagements of Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Phantom Thread. Marty McFly travels from 1989 to 2015 (and, spoiler alert: the Cubs win the World Series) in a rare 70mm showing of Back to the Future II on Thursday, August 29.

For the nonagenarian anniversary, Music Box Theatre has launched its 90 Years anniversary logo depicting the theater’s distinctive Southport neon marquee and created a glossy keepsake 90th anniversary program. The theater’s colorful and ubiquitous newsprint movie calendars—a ubiquitous mainstay of Chicago shop windows, dorm room walls, coffee house bulletin boards and weekly newspapers in the ’80s and ’90s—have been aggregated and published in their entirety on the Music Box Theatre website <>. Video testimonials <> from dozens of filmmakers and cineastes who have been part of the Music Box film community are also available on the website. Collectible enamel souvenir pins <> will be available from the concession stand and the website.

Image courtesy: Music Box Theatre

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