Best Alternative Film Picks and Locations in Chicago

June 2, 2011 6:00 AM


In a city with as large and diverse of an audience as Chicago, a variety in cinema is a must. Though almost every big city has an array of multiplexes and IMAX theaters, only Chicago has the film options that take advantage of the city’s history, landscape and local heroes. We’ve put together some of our favorite alternative spots to catch a film that you won’t find anyplace outside the Windy City.

University of Chicago – Film Studies Center

chicago 6 2 11 university of chicago Best Alternative Film Picks and Locations in Chicago

Credit: University of Chicago

5811 S. Ellis, Cobb Hall 307
Chicago, Illinois 60637

(773) 702-8596
Film Studies Center’s website

Film scholars and cinephiles flock to the U of C Film Studies Center to catch the best in documentaries, avant garde cinema and hard-to-find relics. University faculty and visiting guests often lead pre-film discussions offering unique insight on the featured film. With a year-round calendar of lectures, screenings and other film-related events open to the public (and free); the FSC is like film school without the homework.

The Music Box Theater

musicbox Best Alternative Film Picks and Locations in Chicago

Credit: The Music Box Theater

3733 N. Southport Avenue

Chicago, IL 60613-3718

(773) 871-6604

Originally opened in 1929, the Music Box Theater has been a staple on the Southport corridor for movie fans that love the theater’s ornate look and old-timey touches. In the past two decades the theater has been host to fringe festivals, midnight movie screenings and Saturday morning matinees where an organist occasionally fires up the pipes to accompany a show. According to local legend, the theater remains haunted by “Whitey,” the original manager of the theater in the ‘20s.

Movies in the Parks

chicago 6 2 11 chicagoist com Best Alternative Film Picks and Locations in Chicago


Located in Parks through out Chicago
Movies in the Park Schedule

“The Cheap Seats” don’t come any cheaper—or with better views—than the Park District’s summertime movies in the park. Starting over June, park sites around the city play host to outdoor film screenings at dusk. The movies range from family-friendly cartoons to cult-pop favorites to classics from Hollywood’s Golden Era. Movie-goers can picnic or partake in the free popcorn usually offered at smaller shows, or get lost in the crowd when the city’s biggest movie nights take place in downtown’s Grant Park.

Gene Siskel Film Center

siskel Best Alternative Film Picks and Locations in Chicago

Credit: The Gene Siskel Film Center

164 North State Street

Chicago, IL 60601-3505

(312) 846-2800

One half of the famous “Two Thumbs Up,” Gene Siskel was the Chicago Tribune’s movie critic and favorite sparring partner of Roger Ebert. After his death, the Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which has been screening a variety of the most currently interesting and provocative films for over forty years, was renamed in Siskel’s honor. Apart from hosting festivals, film retrospectives and opening nights, the theater also brings in live events with writers, directors, actors and producers giving fans insights on their favorite films.

Facets Multi-Media

chicago 6 2 11 facets multi media Best Alternative Film Picks and Locations in Chicago

Credit: Facets Multi-Media

1517 West Fullerton Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614

(773) 281-9075

The former “Cinémathèque” is a multimedia non-profit that specializes in foreign films, documentaries and art-house fare. Screenings come with a dose of education on the current films, with classes offered at the theater’s in-house film school. Membership with the theater comes with added perks like special screenings, DVD offerings of hard-to-find films and access to discussions and events.

Kim Bellware is a writer, producer and print maker living in Ukrainian Village. Her non-writerly pursuits involve soccer, perfecting Spanish tapas recipes and spending more time seemingly fixing her bike than she does actually riding it. 

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