Chicago's Music Box Theatre to undergo major renovation for enhanced patron experience

One of Chicago’s best-loved movie theaters will be shut down for a month this summer for an extensive renovation aimed at enhancing patrons’ experience and preserving its historic charm.

The Music Box Theater in Lakeview, an architectural gem and neighborhood anchor since 1929, will undergo the renovation to address wear and tear accumulated over its 95-year history.

"We’re gonna kind of give a little makeover to our lovely old, old 95-year-old space," said Ryan Oestreich, General Manager of the Music Box Theater. "It needs to be modernized, but not in a way we’re going to lose anything. The aesthetics are going to be exactly how it was back in 1929."

Beginning August 12, the theater will close for a month to replace all 740 seats with new ones featuring cupholders, install new carpeting and lighting, and fully restore the proscenium.

"If you think how the city is laid out, it has lost all its historic movie palaces. So the idea you can watch a movie with 700 people and all laugh, and all be scared together, that’s a great experience and it’s really, really important that we keep that experience going," said Oestreich.

During the closure, a small side theater and the Music Box Garden, an outdoor theater showing movies every night during the summer, will remain open.

The renovation project, estimated to cost around $750,000, will be partly funded by sponsoring the new seats and selling the ones being replaced.

"We’re going to have a seat plaque. So basically for the life of that seat you can have your name, your family‘s name or a great movie quote. You can buy one of our old seats. You can own a piece of Chicago history. Or you can donate at any level," Oestreich explained.

Despite challenges faced by many theaters during the pandemic, the Music Box is experiencing increased ticket sales.

Oestreich believes the renovation will ensure the Music Box remains a neighborhood landmark for generations to come.

"As long as people keep making movies, honestly another hundred years. I honestly believe that strongly. I don’t think there’s ever a lack of interest of coming together and watching a movie or hearing a story with a bunch of people."