Snow. Rain. Hail. Temperatures so brutal you feel your nose hairs ice over. We get it all in Chicago, sometimes all on the same day. When you want a time out from the elements — or just a cabin fever reprieve — head to the cinema. These theaters are known to be extra family friendly. (Translation: Nobody will be upset when you show up with your mom-tourage)
Why We Like Them: Overall value and old-timey simplicity
The best movie value is Tivoli Theatre, which is just one of the 14 suburban theaters owned by Classic Cinemas. Inexpensive ticket prices and free refills on all drinks and popcorn keep cinema outings affordable for families. Customer experience is the priority, and it shows in the way employees seem to appreciate every person who walks in the door and every dollar spent.
Kick off summer mornings with the $1 Wednesday Morning Movie Series, running June 7 through August 9, at all Classic Cinema theaters. Employees dress as popular characters and facilitate games in the lobby prior to the 10 a.m. show time of a family-friendly flick.
5021 Highland Ave.
Why We Like Them: Long live the street-front theaters!
Feel like you live in a small town, for just a few hours, while nestled in the big city. The simplicity and friendly atmosphere of Davis Theater is what makes the Lincoln Square mainstay special. A renovation in 2016 didn’t strip away any of the charm and this neighborhood favorite is now making homemade caramel and cheese popcorn, along with other fun flavors. A few times around the block and you can usually find street parking. No messing with garages or trekking down long hallways to get to the show. It’s great for parents who want their kids to experience movies the old-fashioned way, without all the flash of newer theaters.
4614 N. Lincoln Ave.
Showplace Icon Theater
Why We Like Them: Nap-worthy reserved seating, it anchors a pretty cool shopping development and, oh, that popcorn!
Calling all bacon lovers! The bacon-flavored popcorn is reason enough for you to try this South Loop movie palace. Sample the selection of popcorn salts or ditch the popcorn altogether for a brownie in a skillet.
Showcase offers guests reserved seating. This is fabulous news for parents, as you no longer need to fret about arriving early to secure prime viewing space. It’s not just any reserved seating, either: It’s leather, comfortable, spacious and your three-year-old won’t get scrunched in the usual folding chair.
Matinee: $5 before 11 a.m.
150 W. Roosevelt Rd.
Why We Like Them: Movies under the stars and a chance to kick it old school
Okay, so this one’s not inside. But you need a great option for summer, right? One by one, drive-in theaters have disappeared in favor of their theater-style competitors. Cascade is still around, offering blockbuster double features under the stars. It’s not often parents have a chance to blow their kids’ minds, but you’ll do just that when you park the car in front of the nation’s largest outdoor movie screen and offer them a dose of yesteryear. Bring your own food and charcoal to cook on one of the grills in the picnic area. Cascade operates March through November.
Box office opens at 7 p.m.
Adults $10, children (5-11) $5, free for ages 4 & under
1100 E. North Ave.
Why We Like Them: They bring us the annual Chicago International Children’s Film Fest and their birthday parties are a blast!
We absolutely cannot have a list of favorite Chicago theaters without mentioning Facets. Not only can you host a memorable birthday party for your kiddo, they host film camps and bring us the annual children’s film fest (in it’s 34th year!) that was the first to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which means films screened at CICFF can go on to win Oscars®.
No matter your kiddo’s film interest, you’re bound to find something that peaks their interest – animated features, child-produced shorts, documentary short films, live-action features and more! (Even some that will appeal to the teens in your house.) Keep on eye on their schedule and support this neighborhood gem.
1517 W. Fullerton Ave.
Why We Like Them: Grab and go made-to-order gourmet delights
See a show like never before with the innovative CMX Cinema. Relax in super comfy, oversized reclining chairs, while noshing on grab-and-go and made-to-order gourmet delights like pretzels, milkshakes, sandwiches, and pizza. For parents that want an adult only VIP dinner-and-a-movie experience, pop over to the CMX CinéBistro, offering a full menu.
Locations in Skokie and Arlington Heights with plans to expand into more Chicagoland markets, so keep your eyes peeled on their website for updates.
Studio Movie GrillI
Why We Like Them: In-movie food/drink service and lots of personal space
Hello, food heaven. The in-movie food service puts the end to days of you attempting to corral your kiddos toward the theater while juggling their drinks, popcorn and candy. Just sit back, relax and let the food come to you. As an added bonus for parents, the extensive menu includes alcoholic bevvies.
Seats are equipped with built-in trays. And with the leg room this theater offers, you won’t have to worry about getting the stink-eye from the person in front of you; your precious has no chance of kicking their seat.
For families with kids with special needs, SMG offers family friendly movie showings where the lights are turned up and the volume is lowered and kids are free to move around, talk and even dance in the aisles. Check their website for details.
Matinee: Before noon $6.50; $7.50 kids after noon
301 Rice Lake Square
AMC River East 21
Why We Like Them: Special movie showing options for kids with special needs
AMC has partnered with the Autism Society to offer unique movie showings where lights are brighter, sound is minimized and the kiddos can dance, walk or sing in the aisles. Their Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) and Tuesday evenings (mature audiences) of every month. They also offer assistive moviegoing options for those with hearing and vision impairments.
Oh, and did we forget to mention their heated leather recliners? It might just turn into nap time for the littles. Never a bad thing.
322 E. Illinois St.
These are just a few of Chicago’s theater options for your family movie date. Do you have a favorite that didn’t make our list?
— Maria Chambers