Inside the Music Box’s 90th Anniversary Video

Michael Shannon in the Music Box Theatre's 90th Anniversary tribute video

Michael Shannon in the Music Box Theatre’s 90th Anniversary tribute video

The 12-minute film
showcases one of
the theatre’s
greatest resources,
its audience


Filmmaker Curtis Matzke shot a lot of interviews while helping to make the Music Box Theatre’s 90th Anniversary tribute video, and in doing so he captured one of the greatest things about the place: its audience.

Since opening nearly a hundred years ago, the Music Box has cultivated an incomparable legion of fans, including Matzke himself.

“I don’t know specifically when I went for the first time,” he recalls. “It’s all like a blur now; but once I discovered it, I couldn’t stop going.”

ALSO READ: Matzke’s “Orchestra” to screen at Cinepocalypse

No doubt, there’s a lot to love about the Music Box. One of the few cinemas in America that still screens 70MM films, the velvet-draped institution has survived generations of glory and despair. It also boasts an old-school organ, complete with an organist who knows how to play.

Among those who stepped-up to praise the Theatre are Lana Wachowski, Michael Shannon, Werner Herzog, Jennifer Reeder, Joe Swanberg, John McNaughten, Chaz Ebert, and Mimi Plauche. Patton Oswalt phoned-in a testimonial selfie.



Behind the scenes
Matzke worked on the video with Music Box Membership & Group Sales Manager Claire Alden, who helped develop the questions, and Public Relations Manager Steve Prokopy, who conducted most of the interviews. Like him, they both have their own personal reasons for loving the place.

“When the red curtain goes up, you can feel the excitement in the air,” says Alden.

“I just love going there and I feel like every day and every week there’s something unexpected and new and out of the ordinary, beyond their regular programming,” says Prokopy, who also programs the annual Cinepocalypse festival and writes about film for Third Coast Review and co-hosts Flashback Weekend on WGN.

Prokopy, Matzke, and Herzog in the Music Box Lounge
Prokopy, Matzke, and Herzog in the Music Box Lounge

Besides coming up with the standard what-do-you-like-about-the-place questions, they also prepared a unique conversation-starter for the interviews.

“Everyone seems to agree that the Music Box has the best popcorn in Chicago, which led to the wonderful Herzog video that we put out,” says Prokopy. “If you listen carefully, you can kind of hear me giggling in the background because I knew that we had struck gold.”

Although Michael Shannon shared an opposing view on the topic, it was no less entertaining.

“He doesn’t like any movie snack that makes noise — he always liked Sno-Caps,” says Prokopy. “That’s another one where you can hear me giggling because it’s a classic Michael Shannon answer.”

This kind of enthusiasm ran through most of the interviews and helped inspire about three hours of usable footage, which allowed the Music Box to create a number of corresponding teaser videos.



90th Anniversary Program
Matzke shot most of the interviews in the Music Box Lounge, capturing his subjects in 4K with a Sony A7S2 and lighting them up with a pair of LED panels.

Located just off the lobby, the lounge frequently hosts receptions for Music Box programs and special events. Given the theatre’s abundant schedule for its 90th Anniversary week, it will most likely be filled all day.

The celebratory program includes a 70MM screening of Back to the Future Part II, a Mary Poppins sing-along, a Dolly Parton mini-marathon, and a number double features like Tuesday night’s pairing of Ida and The Deep Blue Sea, both of which are distributed by the Theatre’s sister company, Music Box Films.

To learn more about the Music Box Theatre’s 90th Anniversary lineup, click on this.

Send your anniversary updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton,