Appreciation: A Tribute to Chicago’s Music Box Theatre on its 90th Anniversary

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StarWhite Christmas Sing-along

The Music Box Theatre Holiday Sing-along, in the film ‘Solstice’ (1994)
Photo credit: Jerry Vasilatos

In December of 1994, four lost souls wandered into the Music Box Theatre, to take in a screening of their sing-along “White Christmas.” The 1954 holiday film was a standard for years, but the Music Box has made it a legend. I was one of those lost souls, in a group looking for some Christmas cheer, and the event delivered. Now it is a Chicago tradition, with the iconic organist Dennis Scott and Santa Claus leading the sing-along and the crowd adding their Rocky-Horror like shout-outs to the screen. Some people do the double feature (WC is paired with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” naturally), but I opt for bringing ever-changing groups to the White Christmas sing-along, now for 24 straight years. See you for the 25th in 2019 (but get tickets early, it sells out quickly).

NOTE: There is a locally-made film called “Solstice” (1994) directed by Jerry Vasilatos, that includes a scene of the Music Box holiday singalong back in the day. It is available by clicking here.

StarThe Sister Theatre

Sister Acts: The Ramova Theatre and The Music Box Theatre
Photo credit:

The Music Box Theatre is a miracle of timing and location. The Southport Corridor, like most of Chicago, had a severe economic downturn after the 1960s, and as was mentioned the theatre closed for several years beginning in 1978. Besides the true luck of the ownership who saved it (and their good karma emphasis on classic cinema), the neighborhood has revived substantially and is now a destination. The Music Box Theatre itself has been restored to amazing modern vintage glory with the addition of a bar/lounge attachment, and is now one of recognized centerpieces for cinema in the whole country.

But did you know it had a sister theater? The Ramova Theatre on the Southside (interestingly enough, near White Sox Park, as the Music Box is near the Cubs’ Wrigley Field) opened the same week as the Music Box in 1929, with the same design team. But it’s economic downturn never recovered, and it has been closed for over thirty years. I discovered this fascinating fact while giving Blues Brothers tours of the Southside. Will the sister ever emerge again?

As an ideal superlative, if there is a film venue in “heaven” it would be exactly like the Music Box Theatre. So in this anniversary year, stop by and toast this Chicago “Jewel of the Cinema.” May it live another 90 years, and another 90 after that. As the prime example of the “movie theater,” it is THE ultimate destination to contemplate the art of film.

The Music Box Theatre is located at 3733 North Southport Avenue, Chicago. Click here for senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Writer

© 2019 Patrick McDonald,

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