Don Hosek - Chicago Movie Theatres
City: Near-north (0N-1200N)
600 N Michigan

As nondescript as its address. The theatres are all pretty good-sized, but the ticket takers are the slowest workers on the face of the earth. Get there early, especially if you're going at a time that other people are or you'll miss the previews. This is also the theatre where I've seen the most problems with projection. At first I thought it was the added demands of changing films for every showing when I was there for the Chicago International Film Festival, but later I found that they're always that bad: Unreliable equipment, incompetent projectionists or both.

900 N Michigan

Completely unmemorable screens in the basement of a vertical mall. The screens are a decent size and projection is done competently. Not a bad place to see a movie, but not a particularly exciting place either.

Oak between Rush and Michigan

Decent sized theatres in a kind of odd setting. You have to take an elevator or two flights of stairs to reach the first theatres.

Gene Siskel Film Center
State between Randolph and Lake

A step up from the old digs, and a nice place to see shows, although they could have been a bit more generous with the seat sizes. I felt cramped for both leg and hiproom.

McClurg Court
330 E Ohio

Once a crown-jewel theatre, this has come down a bit in stature, I think. I seem to recall that what is now three screens once was one fantastically huge screen. Still, one of the better screens on the near north side for "event" screenings.

City: Mid-north (1200N-4000N)
City North 14
2600 N. Western

Well, given my low expectations of this SUVplex, I guess I was pleased, but that's only because of low expectations. The place turns its back on the street (although apparently presents a nice front to the Kennedy. Not particularly transit-friendly (although the Fullerton, Western and Diversey buses provide passable connections to the L), and to add insult to injury they will charge you $2 to park.

The interior is cavernous and anonymous with 14 identical stadium-seating screens. People like them, I suppose, but they also like Big Macs.

On the plus side, they offer their matinee discount on all shows before 6, even on weekends. But then, with a matinee price of $6, I imagine they can well afford to do that.

Landmark's Century Center
Clark just north of Diversey

So this building was once a movie theatre, then they turned it into a mall then they added the theatres back in but on the top where it used to be offices. Nice enough screens although the staff doesn't seem able to run the box office well (tip: Go straight to the fourth floor, ignoring the first floor box office if there's a line).

Saw Hard Day's Night here and the crowd was much livelier than the crowd at Music Box for Yellow Submarine.

Transit: 22 (Clark), 36 (Broadway) and 76 (Diversey) buses go almost directly to the theatre. Also it's a reasonable walk from the Diversey stop on the Ravenswood.

This one is beautiful. The main screen is in its original state from its construction in 1929. I've not been in theatre two. They specialize in art flicks, revivals and foreign releases. The Saturday-Sunday matinee series is very nice and a good deal. Regular evening shows are a bit pricey ($7.50, I think). Their midnight movie series also features some neat cult stuff. They put out a calendar of upcoming films 3 or 4 times a year which is available at the theatre and also as an insert in the Reader.

Clientele is typical north-side yuppie (even the matinees are over $5). There are a fair number of regulars--easily spotted since they're on a first name basis with the ticket takers.

Be sure to check out the clouds in the main theatre.

Transit: The closest L stop is Southport on the Ravenswood. It's not too far of a walk from the Addison stop on the Howard. Nearby bus lines are the 9 (Ashland), 22 (Clark) and 152 (Addison).

Piper's Alley
North and Wells

The building that Piper's Alley is in is a pretty much failed mall. Until Zzounds moved in, the only active tenants were the movie theatre, Tony 'n Tina's Wedding and Second City. The building has new owners and is getting more tenants (including--ugh--Starbuck's), so it's a bit better than a year or so ago.

The theatre itself is a set of fairly good sized screens with a selection of films focusing mostly on art/indie films, although a bit more mainstream of a selection than you'll find at the Music Box or Three Penny.

Transit: The closest L stop is Sedgwick on the Ravenswood. Nearby bus lines are the 22 (Clark), 36 (Broadway/Clark) and 72 (North).

Three Penny
2424 N. Lincoln

The Three Penny is sort of a lower-class version of the Music Box. It's another neighborhood theatre turned art house. Unfortunately, unlike the Music Box, they split the main theatre down the middle which leaves a rather tight space. Generally they'll have the shows that were at the commercial arthouse screens or the Music Box after they finish their first run. The audience is a bit more mixed than the Music Box although not quite as dicey as the Village gets.

Transit: The Fullerton stop on the Howard and Ravenswood lines is right around the corner. Nearby bus lines are the 8 (Halsted), 11 (Lincoln) and 74 (Fullerton).

Occasionally a bit seedy. Late shows on weeknights will frequently have a couple sleeping homeless gentlemen present, but unless they're snoring it's not too bad. They have a punch card which will earn a free movie for every ten admissions. At this time they offer $2 Tuesdays. There are midnight shows on Friday and Saturday night with quirky offering.

The selection of movies is pretty good, with a mix of popcorn fare and arthouse stuff (the arthouse flicks sometimes carry a higher admission if it's early in the film's release).

The theatre itself has been subdivided into four rather small screens although one of them retains some shadow of the theatre's original glory.

Transit: The Sedgwick (Ravenswood) and Clark/Division (Howard) L stops are both about a half mile away. Nearby bus lines are the 22 (Clark), 36 (Broadway/Clark) and 72 (North).

Webster Place
Webster and Clyburn

A theatre more suited to the burbs than the city. There's not much nearby by way of restaurants and transit access is iffy (only the the 73-Armitage bus comes near it). It's a complex of generic big box screens on the second floor of a mini-mall. And they even make you pay for parking.

City: South
Burnham Plaza
826 S Wabash

A run-down newer theatre in the south loop. They seem to specialize in crashes and explosions action films.

Ford City
7601 S. Cicero

A grossly oversized megaplex in the parking lot of Ford City mall. Tends towards a young raucous crowd, especially for popcorn movies.

Transit: Bus lines serving Ford City are the 54B (South Cicero), 79 (79th Street) and Pace Routes 379, 382, 383, 384 and 385.


Classic Cinemas has converted this theatre from being a second-run theatre with occasional art showings to being a full-fledged first-run theatre. It's fairly nice and the organ lady on Fridays and Saturdays is a sight to behold.

Transit: The Elmhurst stop on the Geneva Metra line is about a block away. Also Pace routes 309, 332 and 645.

Yorktown Premium

Good for a single visit. Not much more. Free self-serve pop corn but most people were to shy to take any. The seats actually are worse for snuggling than standard theatre seats. And they have a tendency to book really crappy films.

North Riverside
Cineplex Loews at North Riverside

Thoroughly unpleasant mall theatre. Everything I hate about mall theatres in one big bundle.

Oak Park

My favorite first-run theatre in the Chicago area. Most of the seven screens are very nice (although I'm not a big fan of theatre two though with its nasty projection angle) and its prices ($4 matinee, $7 evening show) are among the best in the area.

The owner, Classic Cinemas, has done a great job of rebuilding older theatres, and I think that this is their crown jewel.

Transit: The Lake Street L Harlem/Marion stop is a couple blocks away. The Oak Park stop on the Geneva Metra line is right next to the L stop. Also Pace routes 305, 307, 309, 311, 313 and 318.