By Megan Horst-Hatch
There’s nothing quite like taking in a show in an independent movie theater. Smaller than the large multiplexes that dot the Chicagoland area, the more intimate theaters are often versatile, showing films, plays and hosting special lectures. The independent movie theaters in Chicago also tend to offer a unique selection of films including Hollywood classics, art-house flicks and second-run showings, with some offering new releases. The following independent movie theaters are sure to make your next night in front of the big screen memorable.
Buffalo Grove Theater
120 McHenry Road
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089
The Buffalo Grove Theater is one of the northwest suburbs’ best-kept secrets. Under new ownership since 2009, the theater shows first-run films on regular and 3-D screens, and also teams up with various charities. The theater also offers more than just popcorn for snacks; homemade breads, mixed nuts, fruit and frozen fruit bars are some of the snacks available. Buffalo Grove Theater has also expanded beyond showing films. For instance, guests can rent a movie theatre to play their favorite Xbox games on the big screen.
Doc Films at the University of Chicago
1212 E 59th St
Chicago, IL 60637
Located in the University of Chicago’s campus in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, Doc Films screens movies at night Wednesday through Saturday during the academic year. Films are selected based on an ever-changing weekly theme, including horror and documentaries. Many movies have premiered in Chicago at the Doc, including “The Rules of the Game” and “Brokeback Mountain.” Founded in 1940, Doc is the longest, continuously-running student film society in the nation.
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State St
Chicago, IL 60601
The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers more than just movies on the big screen. In addition to retrospectives and re-screenings of classic films, the center features personal appearances by prominent actors, directors and critics. The center seeks to educate filmgoers through panel discussions and lectures of the films. Recent events have included a two-month tribute to Japan’s Studio Ghibli, which included the screening of 15 animation features, and screenings of local filmmaker Todd Looby’s movie “Be Good.” The film center also hosts four annual film festivals: European Union Film Festival, Asian American Showcase, Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video and Festival of Films from Iran. Founded in 1972, the film center was fittingly renamed in honor of renowned film critic Gene Siskel in 2000.
The Logan Theatre
2646 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
The Logan Theatre, a mainstay in Chicago’s Logan Park neighborhood since 1915, offers more than just traditional movie fare. While it shows new films, it also re-screens old favorites through its monthly “Late Night at the Logan” at 11 p.m. on select evenings. Recent screenings have included such classics as “Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon.” While the theatre is almost 100 years old, its technology is not, with 3-D capabilities among its features. The Logan has an on-site bar and lounge that features beer from local breweries. It also offers serious eats. In addition to traditional popcorn and pop, the theatre’s menu boasts gourmet pretzels, pizza and frozen novelties from Bobtail, a Chicago-based ice cream maker.
Related: The Renovated Logan Theatre
Music Box Theatre
3733 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL 60613
Want to step off the beaten path and see an indie flick? Consider seeing a show at Music Box Theatre. Opened in 1929, MBT has been showing fine foreign and independent films since 2007, and also offers re-screenings of classic films such as “The Graduate” and events such as a sing-along of “Mary Poppins.” As a nod to its past, MBT also offers live organ music between films on Saturday and Sunday evenings. As MBT is within a few blocks of Wrigley Field, it is strongly advised to use public transportation on the Cubs’ game days.
5 S Prospect Ave
Park Ridge, IL 60068
Located just a stone’s throw from Chicago in the bustling northwest suburb of Park Ridge, Pickwick Theatre offers patrons a step back in time—and cheap seats. The main theatre’s iconic art deco exterior is a well-known landmark and was appropriately featured in the opening credits of the TV show “Siskel & Ebert.” Opened in 1928 for vaudeville performances, Pickwick’s main theater hosts a variety of events including plays. First- and second-run films are shown at the theater and the Pickwick has three additional movie screens around the corner. Tip: stop by the Pickwick Restaurant, located next door to the theater, before or after your show for a snack.
Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I’m a Trader Joe’s Fan. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.