Apr 1, 2023 - Things to Do

The movie theater glow-up

Moviegoers wear headphones during a movie at Rooftop Cinema Club. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Rooftop Cinema Club

Moviegoers wear headphones during a movie at Rooftop Cinema Club. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Rooftop Cinema Club

Seeing a movie in Chicago can include wireless headphones, skyline views and a cushioned loveseat.

Why it matters: Box offices overall are showing signs of life again, as moviegoers are returning to a revamped theater experience.

Zoom in: Rooftop Cinema Club in Fulton Market offers a skyline view while you watch a movie on an LED screen. You’ll have to wear wireless headphones, which the theater says helps you “live in those memorable cinematic moments and not get disturbed by the outside world.”

  • The seats might remind you of home. They have cushioned single chairs and loveseats (for date night), and there’s a side table for your drinks and snacks.
  • The movies are selected by the staff, who also host games, talent Q&As and sing-alongs at the club, too.
  • Kiddos are welcome for any showing before 4:30pm. Later screenings are for adults only.

The theater, which took a winter hiatus, will reopen in spring 2023.

The big picture: Hundreds of theaters have closed their doors since the onset of the pandemic, but those remaining are betting that luxurious or unique experiences will bring back audiences.

  • Nationals chains like AMC Theatres, Cinemark and Regal have redesigned theater rooms to include more luxury recliners and food options.
  • Local theaters have become smaller, embracing comfortable recliners and seats, too. Others are offering dine-in options, allowing people to buy cocktails, beer or personal pizzas.
  • Some theaters are even ditching traditional seats for beanbag chairs.

The Chicago area is home to a number of theaters offering unique experiences and luxury seating, in addition to the many AMC, Cinemark, Regal and Alamo Drafthouse theaters that have reclining seats and dine-in services.

  • Cine Lounge in Niles has an indoor lounge area with red sofas where you can relax before the big show.
  • Gene Siskel Film Center, a few blocks from Millennium Park, shows independent and international films.
  • Music Box Theatre on Southport Avenue is your go-to location for independent, foreign cult and classic films.
  • Showplace Icon Theatre & Kitchen near the South Loop has a full food and drink menu and a happy hour during the week.
  • The Davis Theater in Lincoln Square has luxury seats and an attached restaurant and bar. The theater boasts a massive cocktail menu and has 18 beers on tap. It also sells its own gourmet popcorn tins.
  • The Logan Theatre, close to Logan Square, has a food and drink menu, as well as several desserts, including frozen bananas and ice cream bars. The theater also hosts movie trivia nights, open mic comedy shows and bingo.
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