While picking my stepdaughter up from school today, I walked over and snapped a picture of the beautiful Music Box Theater on Southport Avenue.
The first time I ever went into the Music Box Theater was in 1986, when I saw the 1980 Bob Hoskins classic "The Long Good Friday." I lived just a few blocks from it, at Ashland and Berteau, and was able to walk there in about ten minutes. I made it a habit to see movies there when I could.
According to their website, the Music Box was opened in August, 1929, just a few months before the stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression. It was reopened 25 years ago by its current management as an art theater. When I was a younger guy and had lots of spare time, one of the things I looked forward to was once a month when the Chicago Reader would have the monthly schedule in it. I've seen countless marvelous movies there: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, Down By Law and Casablanca. One time, when I was in line to see Akira Kurasowa's "Ran," film critic Roger Ebert was right behind me in line. When my friend Mark was still alive, he was always dragging me to see the animation festivals or some movie he was interested in. Wish he was still around to do that.
When Kim and her first husband got divorced, she and Mel lived right behind the Music Box. A couple of months ago, I took Mel and Adam to a booksigning by Chicago ghost enthusiast Ursula Bielski, and Mel told Ms. Bielski about hearing ghosts in the theater. Bielski confirmed that others had interacted with the friendly ghost of a long-gone employee of the theater.
When I got out of school in the mid eighties, the neighborhood around the Music Box, Wrigleyville (Wrigley Field is just a few blocks away), was rough. These days, that strip of Southport is filled with tony shops and restaurants. Fortunately, the Music Box has survived gentrification, and continues to show it's quirky mix of art movies and classic. Long may it run.