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Readers’ Choice: More of the Best Movie Theaters in America

As much as we would’ve welcomed it, we unfortunately had neither the time nor budget to visit every theater in America to fully research our post last week on the best movie theaters in the country; instead, we relied on our own experience and the testimonials of friends and colleagues. “If we left off your favorite,” went the conclusion of the introduction, “we’re certain you’ll let us know in the comments.”

Did you ever. As of this morning, our fine, far-flung readers had suggested 63 additional theaters, so a follow-up seemed in order. Of course, lists are finite, so not all could make the cut; we began by focusing on the houses that received multiple mentions and narrowed from there — again, based either on the quality of presentation, the eclecticism of the programming, or both.

“Writing a list of this type,” wrote commenter Kent Schuelke, “of course raises the hackles of fans of theaters that did not make the list, but I think everyone who bothers to read the comments section of this article is likely a movie fan so I am simply pleased to see so much love for not only the 12 theaters mentioned in the article but also the ones mentioned in these comments.” Hear, hear. Check out our amended list (13 more, for a grand total of 25) after the jump.

The Music Box, Chicago, IL

“Sad that Chicago doesn’t have a horse in the race.”- pinkston
“That’s okay, let’s keep the Music Box our little secret.” – Joe
“Another huge vote for the Music Box.” – Josh
“Totally disregarding Chicago’s precious Music Box!!” – Larissa Nikola-Lisa
“Another vote for The Music Box. It’s a gem.” – Jeff“Music Box has great architecture, stars twinkling up above in the main screening room, and midnight and matinee screenings in addition to their regular hours.” – Cobalt
“How can The Music Box in Chicago NOT be on this list? It’s an icon!” – R3NEE
“As mentioned above, an institution.” – Clinton McClung
“The Music Box in the Windy City. I’ll bet Frank Sinatra loved it too!” – david nastasi
“REVISE THIS LIST AND ADD THE MUSIC BOX RIGHT. NOW. It’s how this lonely girl found solace in the suburbs of Chicago and convinced her to break out of the midwest and head to film school. Also, they always have Toblerones at the Music Box. Also, they shot there in High Fidelity, which we know you love.” -Maddy
“Crazy to not have the Music Box Theatre on here.” – mandrake
“No fucking Music Box in Chicago? Get the fuck outa here.” – Alex
“Looks like a few disgruntled Chicagoans beat me to it… Ok, the secret’s out.” – Sharon

We could bore you with the reasons why the Music Box was missed (and not, we’d like to stress, purposefully excluded), but those are just excuses — I don’ t have many hard, fast rules, but one of them is that when Ebert tells you that you got it wrong, you got it wrong, and then you apologize and make it right. Which brings us to the Music Box, originally opened in 1929 as an 800-seat house (in a downtown Chicago dominated by much larger venues). As with so many of our classic theaters, it fell into disrepair and underuse in the 1970s, but was rescued in 1983 by Christopher Carlo, Robert Chaney and Stan Hightower — first as a rep house, then as a venue for new foreign, independent, and cult pictures (with a second screen added on in 1991). It was the favorite theater of Mr. Ebert’s colleague, the late Gene Siskel, who wrote in 1991, “the Music Box Theater has established itself as a significant Chicago cultural attraction, a showcase for progressive filmmaking at a time when American movie theaters are as homogenized as the films they exhibit… For variety, the Music Box has no commercial equal in Chicago.”

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  1. [...] Come to find out, people are very passionate about their favorite movie theaters. After carefully surveying friends and colleagues from all over the country, we managed to get a list of the country’s best down to a manageable dozen houses, based either on the quality of presentation, the eclecticism of the programming, or both. These days, when too many movie theaters are, to paraphrase Ebert, value-added popcorn stands, these venues deserve kudos for still striving to make movie-going an experience. Check them out after the jump, and if we left off your favorite, we’re certain you’ll let us know in the comments (UPDATE: And that you did, and we listened–read part two of this list here.) [...]

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