An Escape from the Multiplex

Chicago has a fine selection of movie theaters, but even the so-called art houses show mostly the same films that you'd be able to catch back home (or eventually on cable). But three local movie houses cater to cinema buffs with original programming. The Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St. (tel. 312/846-2600;; subway/El: Red Line to Washington or Brown Line to Randolph), named after the well-known Chicago Tribune film critic who died in 1999, is part of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The center schedules a selection of films in two theaters, including lectures and discussions with filmmakers. The Film Center often shows foreign films that are not released commercially in the U.S.

The Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave. (tel. 773/871-6604;; subway/El: Brown Line to Southport), is a movie palace on a human scale. Opened in 1929, it was meant to re-create the feeling of an Italian courtyard; a faux-marble loggia and towers cover the walls and electric "stars" sparkle in the painted sky overhead. The Music Box books a selection of foreign and independent American films -- everything from Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski's epic Decalogue to a sing-along version of The Sound of Music to the Vincent Price cult classic House of Wax. The vintage seats may not be the most comfortable, but the Music Box's funky, shabby feel is part of its charm.

Facets MultiMedia, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. (tel. 773/281-4114;; subway/El: Red or Brown line to Fullerton), a nonprofit group that screens independent film and video from around the world, is for the die-hard cinematic thrill-seeker. The group mounts an annual Children's Film Festival (Oct-Nov) and the Chicago Latino Film Festival (Apr-May), and rents its impressive collection of classic, hard-to-find films on video and DVD by mail.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.