Having a birthday party makes any kid feel like the star of a show. For a real taste of the spotlight, put down the piñata and head to Facets Multimedia. The little Lincoln Park movie theater, around for 40 years yet still considered a hidden gem, is known for showing indie and foreign films to an arty adult crowd. Read on to also hear how they give the Nick at Nite set a piece of the lights, camera and action with private kids’ birthday bashes filled with films, food and fun.

Facets Marquee

What is Facets?
This 250-seat gem has deep, far-spreading roots in Chicago’s film community. Its staff created the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, the largest children’s film festival in North America, which every October and November screens more than 250 culturally diverse, non-violent films from 40 countries. At the festival and throughout the year you can catch age-appropriate live-action features, animated films, shorts, TV shows, documentaries and child-produced works.

How ‘bout those birthday parties?
Bashes at Facets revolve around a movie showing, with ample time for cake and camaraderie. The entire theater is reserved for your group during party time. Pick your party flick with the help of a planner who scours the venue’s vast library and makes suggestions based on guests’ ages and interests. You can also request a specific theme, like giving, friendship or anti-bullying. Movie choices usually include past Chicago International Children’s Film Festival favorites. Try a collection of animated shorts including The Mantis Parable, a story about a caterpillar stuck in a bug collector’s jar; or go for a live-action feature like Will, a heartwarming story about an orphaned, soccer-obsessed English boy.

The Mantis Parable

How does the fun begin?
Families hosting a birthday party receive a free movie-themed invitation template to download and a copy of Best of the Fest, a DVD compilation of past movie festival favorites. When the guest of honor arrives with their entourage, they’ll be welcomed by the theater’s marquee announcing their name.

At the start, movie shorts play, giving little revelers ample time to shake their sillies out and wiggle into their seats. When all guests have hit their mark and it’s time to start the feature, attendees wave to the projectionist and yell, “Lights, Camera, Action!” After credits roll, Facets’ film-experts lead an age-appropriate discussion that dives deeper into themes and lessons from the film.


We’re hungry. What’s next?
When the applause dies down to reveal the sound of tummies rumbling, direct your cast of characters to the upstairs party room for pizza and cake. While Facets doesn’t provide in-house catering, there are plenty of options for pizza pick-up and delivery. Both Pequod’s Pizza and Art of Pizza are local favorites. A few blocks south of the theater, you can choose delicious cakes, cupcakes and old-fashioned desserts from neighborhood favorite Sweet Mandy B’s.

Any cool extras?
No trip to the movies is complete without a freshly popped batch of popcorn. For an additional $1/person, you can add on a kiddie-size popcorn for each guest. Wash it down with a kiddie-size fountain drink for $2/person. If you have bigger appetites in the group, you can go for the small popcorn and drink for $5/guest.

As you watch your star of the day drop five pieces on the floor for every one they eat, you’ll be happy you chose a destination that doesn’t require you to be part of the cleanup crew.

Facets BDay Party

Sounds good. So how much?
The cost to reserve the theater for a private showing is $400 ($350 for Facets members) for up to 125 guests. If you’d like to hang around a bit after the show, they can accommodate up to 30 people in the party space. The combined cost for the private showing and post-movie shindig is $500 ($450 for Facets members).

It’s important to note that Facets does not allow parents to drop off their kids. They believe the party should be about you enjoying the day with your birthday boy or girl, so adults are asked to stay and take in the show.

Let’s not wait for a birthday. What can kids do at Facets now?
Facets offers a variety of screening programs for all grade levels, which are available for viewing at Facets or at your school. All films are selections from the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and cover topics ranging from anti-bullying to ethnic heritage and holiday films to science. Bonus: All programs include an introduction and post-screening discussion led by a trained media educator.

Future film critics (as young as 7) can be introduced to the world of moviemaking by attending the Facets Kids Film Camp. During these weeklong summer camps, they’ll learn terms and techniques, and take part in dozens of hands-on activities, including storyboarding, review writing, screenwriting, acting and shooting. Film camp graduates have an opportunity to sit on a jury that screens nearly 100 films to be shown as part of the annual film festival.

Don’t forget to market your calendars for the next Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, Oct. 27-Nov. 5, 2017. Now on with the show!

Facets Multimedia
1517 W. Fullerton Ave.
Lincoln Park
Online: www.facets.org

What is your kid’s favorite movie? Tell us in the Comments section below.

— Maria Chambers

Photos: Courtesy of Facets Multimedia