Music Box Theatre
Everybody’s a dreamer and everybody’s a star
And everybody’s in movies, it doesn’t matter who you are
There are stars in every city
In every house and on every street
— Celluloid Heros, The Kinks, from Everybody's in Show-Biz

The Music Box Theatre is one of those classic old theaters that were built in the first half of the last century. Every city seems to have at least one of these classics still standing. Unfortunately for architectural aficionados, many others have fallen to the wrecking ball wielded by developers.

Located about six or seven blocks west of Wrigley Field, the Music Box was designed by architects Louis Simon and Edward Steinborn. It first opened on August 22, 1929, just two months before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which began on October 24 of that year.

In 1931, the Music Box sustained damage when it was bombed during a dispute with the Motion Picture Operators’ Union. Like many of these grande dames, the Music Box began to show porno films in late Seventies, together with Spanish and Arabic language films. In the early Eighties, it underwent restoration. Then it began to present foreign and independent films, which it continues to do.

Anyone who has seen a film at the Music Box will instantly recall the large organ, a relic of the silent-film era, that rises to the left of the screen before the movie begins. Patrons are treated to a wonderful recital, which is far more enjoyable pre-film entertainment than advertisements and Maria Menounos’ Noovie spiel (particularly the virtually reality smartphone game).

My one complaint with the Music Box is the seats, which are very old. I am not a fan of the BarcaLounger-styled seats that have come to theaters in recent years. Those seats are over-the-top. At the same time, the minimalist approach taken by the Music Box makes for an uncomfortable experience.

Overall, the Movie Box continues to present worthy films that are not shown at the chain theatres. It serves as an anchor for the Southport neighborhood, which means there are a number of good restaurants in the vicinity. I remember eating at the Banana Leaf, a Thai food restaurant, which was just a block north of the theatre.

I guess I hadn’t been in the neighborhood for quite awhile. I was a bit surprised today to see the Banana Leaf gone, replaced by a Dairy Queen. Turns out the Banana Leaf closed sometime around 2006-2007 (see Yelp reviews). I think of Dairy Queens as drive-ins.

And if ice cream is not your thing, a block or so south of the Music Box, you will see a Grateful Dead-friendly empanadas stand. I saw Italian, pizza, an Austrian Cafe (Julius Meinl), and other interesting food opportunities nearby.

[Click on a photograph to enlarge it.]

D.Q. in a Classic Chicago Storefront with Turret

Nothing Like Eating Empanadas with Cosmic Charlie

Photographer’s Notes: I used a 32mm lens to make this photograph. I tried an 18mm lens, but without a technical camera, it resulted in too much street in the foreground. Given that it is impossible to back up far enough to use a camera without some upward tilt, the image of the Music Box does have a slight amount of convergence distortion. On a nice day later this summer, I may head back with my technical camera to do the photograph right. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be as lucky as I was today. There were no cars on either side of the theatre or across the street, where I will have to set up my tripod.



Greenland Comes to Chicago

Greenland Comes to Chicago