CHICAGO (CBS) — In 1929, silent movies were on their way out, and films with sound, called “talkies,” were making their way to theaters across the United Sates.
In Chicago, the Music Box Theatre was one of the first, if not the first movie house to show talkies, a revolution in the motion picture industry. As it celebrates its 90th anniversary, the movie theater is now known for hosting art house films, foreign language offerings, cartoons and monthly silent films with organ accompaniment among its many kinds of movies.
“Nowadays the stage accommodates filmmakers making appearances. The roster includes Wes Anderson, Crispin Glover, Tipi Hedron, David Lynch, Eva Marie Saint, Paul Schrader, Agnes Varda, Haskell Wexler and Kristin Wiig,” wrote Bill Stamets for the Music Box’s 90th anniversary site.
Back at the turn of the 20th century, it was considered small by theater standards with around 700 seats. It cost $110,000 to build, and it was designed by Louis Simon and Edward Steinborn. “Mother’s Boy” starring Morton Downey was the first movie to be shown at the Music Box.
It didn’t always show first-run features. Between the late 1970s and early 1980s, it presented movies in Spanish, Arabic language films and pornos. Under new management in 1983, the movie theater brought back foreign and independent and cult films.
According to the theater’s website, movies are now shown 300 days a year.
“From its namesake musical device to 70mm spectacles, the Music Box embraces a gamut of film genres, along with guest appearances and sing-a-longs. Its narrative frames the bigger picture of cinema in Chicagoland,” noted Stamets.
To commemorate its nine decades in operation, the Music Box is hosting a week-long celebration of movies, including one of the first talkies shown in Chicago (“Innocents of Paris” from 1929 with Maurice Chevalier) to contemporary features like 1993’s “The Fugitive,” which will be shown on Friday, and a “Mary Poppins” sing-a-long.
Check out the Music Box’s website for details on the films that’ll be shown for its 90th celebration.