Movie theaters offer a multisensory experience unlike anything else. There is nothing that takes you away from the present and immerses you in another world quite like the movies. They’re a guaranteed emotional experience whether you go with friends, family, on a date, or even alone.
In a city like Chicago, however, which has served as the backdrop for so many blockbusters and brilliant movies, there is an extra special affiliation with the movies. The cinematic world is in the city’s blood. From its enormous multiplexes to its vintage art houses the consequence of Chicago’s relationship with cinema is a plethora of fantastic places to sit back and let the screen transport you to another world.
Here we’ve rounded up some of the best movie theaters in Chicago. As it is fairly easy to find somewhere with a giant screen, big seats, and state-of-the-art sound in this day and age, we’ve instead focused on the more unique cinematic experiences available around the city.
Opened in 1929 just months before The Great Depression, the neon letters of the historic Music Box Theatre have long lured cinephiles from across Chicagoland to enjoy independent, foreign, cult, and classic films within its charming framework.
The independent two-screen cinema in Wrigleyville is not a place to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster but rather to catch the latest art-house films and documentaries. Its interior setup is as unique as its exterior with ornate Spanish and Italian architecture but its 700-seat auditorium is particularly majestic with stunning décor, and an organ that is still used for silent films, holiday sing-alongs, and frequent film festivals.
Chicago’s go-to venue for independent, foreign, and classic films, the Music Box Theatre offers one of the most unique cinematic experiences in Chicago.
Movie times and more information can be found at musicboxtheatre.com.
Address: 3733 North Southport Avenue, Chicago
After opening in 1915 as the Paramount Theatre, the Logan Theatre was taken over by the Vaselopolis family in 1922 and renamed. The family-owned business quickly became a local hub for the diverse Logan Square community and built a reputation for showing a wide range of both independent and blockbuster films.
The original design, architecture, and several stunning features have been restored to their former glory giving the theater an elegant and unique identity fused with modern-day amenities. Walking in guests will see a fully restored stained glass arch over the Theatre’s entrance as well as refurbished marble walls, a decorative relief panel that dates back to the Theatre’s elegant 1915 interior, and an expansive art deco lobby.
Movie times and more information can be found at thelogantheatre.com.
Address: 2646 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
3. The Pickwick Theatre
Another art deco gem, The Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge opened in 1928 as a vaudeville stage and movie theatre. The striking 100-foot tower and its main auditorium, built to resemble an Aztec or Mayan temple earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and saw it selected as one of the Illinois 200 Greatest Places in 2018.
Just over a decade ago, the theatre went under a $1.2 million renovation project which brought it up to modern-day standards while retaining its unique exterior and interior makeup.
Today it offers 5 screens across two buildings. A 900 seater Mega Theatre on Prospect Avenue offers its most all-encompassing experience while another 4 screens in a back building mean that several movies can be on at once.
Movie times and more information can be found at pickwicktheatre.com.
Address: 5 S Prospect Ave, Park Ridge
4. Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema
Another cinema to have received extensive renovations recently was Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema in Lake View. The city’s first all-stadium seating theatre was given a makeover in 2015 and now offers high-back, leather-style seats across 5 different auditoriums.
Its famed fresh hot popcorn can be found in the remodeled concession area while local and imported beers, wines, signature cocktails, and a range of drinks can be enjoyed at the cinema’s wonderful Century Bar.
With maverick screenings of leftfield independent films and a concessions counter with options ranging from vegan cookies to organic ice teas, a unique and memorable experience can always be had at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema.
Movie times and more information can be found at landmarktheatres.com.
Address: 12828 N Clark Street, Chicago
5. Facets Cinematheque
Another place you’ll find obscure indie flicks and foreign language films is Facets Cinematheque in Lincoln Park. Founded in 1975, the Lincoln Park movie theater is now the site of the annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and the Chicago Latino Film Festival.
Independent films, both American and foreign are shown at the cinema’s two auditoriums frequently, while a collection of nearly 50,000 rare DVDs are available to rent.’
According to the website, its mission is “to create cinematic experiences for youth and adults that foster vital conversations and community action through film exhibitions, media education, and film resources.”
Movie times and more information can be found at facets.org.
Address: 1517 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago
6. Gene Siskel Film Center
Formerly known as The Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Gene Siskel Film Center was renamed in honor of the late Chicago Tribune film critic who passed away in 1999 and is now operated by the School of the Art Institute.
Home to film festivals such as the Black Harvest Film Festival, Asian American Showcase, Chicago Palestine Festival, and the Festival of Films from Iran, the Gene Siskel Film Center’s programming “celebrates diverse voices and international cultures”, “premieres of trailblazing work by today’s independent filmmakers” and hosts “insightful, provocative discussions with filmmakers and media artists.”
With a main 200-seat auditorium and a 64-seat smaller theater together showing over 1,600 screenings and 200 filmmaker appearances there is always something interesting to watch while a cute cafe with outstanding food and the Sandor Family gallery of rotating photographic exhibits offer things to do before and after showings.
Movie times and more information can be found at siskelfilmcenter.org.
Address: 164 North State Street, Chicago
7. The Davis Theater
The Davis Theater was built in 1918 and opened as the Pershing Theater before it was renamed the Davis Theater in the 1930s. For over 100 years it showed a variety of entertainment ranging from puppet shows to silent films.
After undergoing extensive renovations at the start of 2016 it now features three screens and an attached restaurant and bar, Carbon Arc Bar & Board, that boasts a massive cocktail menu, an enormous wine list, 18 beers on tap, and its own incredibly tasty gourmet popcorn.
Movie times and more information can be found at davistheater.com.
Address: 4614 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
8. Doc Films, University of Chicago
While today the country is swamped it big glittering megaplexes sometimes it isn’t in the glitzy gigantisms where the best cinematic experiences can be found. The Documentary Film Group, aka Doc Films, Doc Films, a student-led, volunteer-run movie theater and film society at the University of Chicago is a perfect example of that.
Founded more than 80 years ago, Doc Films is the oldest student film society in the nation and one of the oldest continuously running theaters in Chicago. Though it began with documentaries all those years ago, the screening schedule today showcases a wide range of modern and classic films.
A humble but spacious movie theater the Doc Films interior is nothing to write home about but you can guarantee the overall experience of watching whatever it is you choose to see there will be.
Movie times and more information can be found at docfilms.org.
Address: 1212 E 59th St #3, Chicago
9. The New 400 Theater
Calling itself the longest continually operating movie theater in Chicago, The New 400 Theater opened over 100 years ago in 1913 as the Regent Theater. In 1930 it was renamed the 400 Theater, then 400 Twin, then Village North Theatre, and then Visionary Theatres providing Rogers Park residents with regular Hollywood magic throughout its nearly a century of existence.
The theater now houses 4 refurbished auditoriums that make up the modest neighborhood spot. Again the interior is nothing ornate or ostentatious but it’s a reliable and memorable movie theater that offers a full bar delivering drinks to your seat.
Movie times and more information can be found at thenew400.com.
Address: 6746 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago
10. AMC Theaters (Honorary Mention)
Though not historic nor housed in particularly charming old buildings, one can’t deny the reliability of AMC movie theaters. AMC has been making viewing modern flicks on the big screen as easy as it gets for years and you’ve got to show a bit of gratitude for that.
With both big blockbusters and art house fare even hard-to-please film aficionados will have often kicked back at an AMC theater and been whisked away into a narrative of some kind.
AMC in River East 21 and AMC Dine-in Theatres Block 37 in particular are two wonderful experiences. The former offers 21 screens and played host to the Chicago International Film Festival while the latter, Chicago’s newest AMC cinema, offers 11 screens and the possibility to enjoy a full dine-in menu
[Featured image from musicboxtheatre.com]