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The vintage facade of the Music Box makes it one of the best movie theaters in Chicago.
Photograph: Max Herman

The best movie theaters in Chicago

Whether you prefer classic films, indie gems or the latest blockbusters, you'll find them at Chicago's best movie theaters

By Kris Vire

Anyone who grew up watching At the Movies with Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel knows that Chicago loves movies. Whether it's the hottest new release, a crowd-pleasing indie or a classic rep screening, there's a host of great multiplexes and art houses to get your popcorn-and-film fix. And, in true Chicago fashion, most of them stock drink options on par with a cocktail bar and allow you to take a drink with you into your screening. So pick your movie and head out to one of the best movie theaters in Chicago.

The best movie theaters in Chicago

The updated lobby of The Music Box.
Photograph: Max Herman

1. Music Box Theatre

Movie theaters Independent Wrigleyville

For movie lovers who don't care for traditional Hollywood blockbusters, there's no better theater than the Music Box, a two-screen cinema that shows the latest art-house films and documentaries. It's gorgeous, and the main theater regularly hosts director Q&A's as well as weekly midnight screenings of cult classics. Also, the concession stand here tops its popcorn with real butter.

Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

2. Logan Theatre

Movie theaters Independent Logan Square

This renovated theater in the heart of Logan Square features an upgraded sound system, new screens and projectors, and perhaps best of all, a lobby bar and lounge that hosts events like live comedy and movie trivia. You'll find a diverse mix of second run studio movies and indie flicks in addition to a robust lineup of midnight screenings each weekend.

ArcLight Chicago
Courtesy ArcLight Cinema

3. ArcLight Chicago

Movie theaters Multiplex River North

The L.A.-based movie theater brings Chicago its revamped, hassle-free take on the movie going experience by doing away with lines, general seating (you choose your seats when you purchase), lengthy trailers and sticky floors. The theater offers classic concessions, a cafe and bar with craft beer, wine and cocktails you can bring to your movie. ArcLight features a year-round mix of major blockbusters, independent films and documentaries as well as special screenings and events.

4. ShowPlace ICON at Roosevelt Collection

Movie theaters Multiplex Loop

A multiplex theater that meets the needs of the casual moviegoer as well those who want an upgraded cinematic experience, this South Loop spot also boasts a second floor lounge where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat before the show. If you're looking to splurge, get a VIP ticket and enjoy the latest blockbuster in a cozy balcony seat, where you can enjoy drinks and lounge food while watching the movie.


5. Landmark's Century Centre Cinema

Movie theaters Multiplex Lake View

Though it's located on top of what appears to be an abandoned mall, the Landmark's lineup of studio-backed indie films and obscure midnight screenings is worth the trip. The theater's bar and snack options can be just as quirky as the movie you're seeing, making it the perfect destination for the cinephile in training.

davis theater
Photograph: Erin Delahanty

6. Davis Theater

Movie theaters Independent Lincoln Square

This Lincoln Square neighborhood favorite, newly reopened in December 2016 after extensive renovations, features first-run films on three screens. The revamped theater includes an attached restaurant and bar, Carbon Arc Bar & Board, with an impressive cocktail menu, 26 beers on tap and an extensive wine list—all of which can come with you into your movie.

Photograph: Max Herman

7. AMC River East 21

Movie theaters Multiplex Streeterville

River East 21 has become a thriving downtown film destination, playing host to the Chicago International Film Festival and a regular slate of advance screenings. With 21 screens available, many different titles can be shown at once, which means there's generally a good balance of blockbusters and art-house fare.

8. Gene Siskel Film Center

Movie theaters Independent Loop

Named in honor of the late Chicago film critic, this theater is operated by the School of the Art Institute and showcases a wide range of movies, including indies, foreign films and celebrated classics. Nightly screenings make it easy to catch a flick in the Loop after a long day at the office.

AMC Dine-In Theatres Block 37
Photograph: Courtesy AMC Theatres

9. AMC Dine-in Theatres Block 37

Movie theaters Multiplex Loop
The newest Chicago location of the AMC multiplex chain, located on the fourth floor of the Block 37 shopping center, offers 11 screens and AMC's full dine-in menu, featuring everything from burgers to sushi rolls. Four variations on mac & cheese are balanced out by healthier options like quinoa bowls. You order from a console at your seat, and your freshly prepared food is delivered right to your plush leather recliner.

10. Evanston Century 12

Movie theaters Multiplex Evanston

The Cinemark Theater in Evanston may look like your average multiplex, but due to its proximity to Northwestern University, it attracts an impressive lineup of art films and limited releases. Whether you want to see the latest blockbuster or see something a bit more highbrow, Century 12 is your gateway to the world of cinema in Evanston.


11. Regal Webster Place 11

Movie theaters Multiplex Lincoln Park

Regal Webster Place 11 hides a revolutionary advance in movie-viewing technology: king-size reclining seats. It's especially useful considering Pequod's is just across the street—you'll probably need to lay down for a while after a few slices of deep-dish.

Navy Pier
Photograph: Grace Allen

12. Navy Pier IMAX Theatre

Movie theaters IMAX Streeterville

Don't believe the misleading marketing being employed at theaters around the city—there's only one honest-to-god IMAX screen showing studio films in Chicago and it's on Navy Pier. Boasting a screen that measures 60 feet high and 86 feet wide, it's the most immersive way to watch a movie (especially if it's being shown in 3D).


13. New 400 Theater

Movie theaters Multiplex Rogers Park

If the $8.50 ticket price (that includes 3D screenings) at this Rogers Park theater doesn't grab your attention, then this certainly should: The theater sports a full bar and servers deliver drinks to your seat. Frankly, we'll go see just about any movie if there's a stiff cocktail involved.

14. Facets Cinematheque

Movie theaters Independent Lincoln Park

While Chicago has multiple art-house theaters, Facets is the place to go to find the obscure indies that won't screen anywhere else in the city. The theater is the site of the annual Chicago International Children's Film Festival and also hosts Facets Multimedia, where movie buffs can rent obscure DVDs from around the world.


15. Doc Films, University of Chicago

Movie theaters Independent Hyde Park

Founded in 1940, the University of Chicago's single-screen Doc Films theater is on record as the longest continuously running student film society in the country. While it began featuring documentaries, the modern screening schedule showcases classic films from a variety of genres, appealing to film aficionados as well as casual moviegoers.


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