The Fox Bay Cinema Grill marquee lights up the theater's outdoor marble ticket kiosk, transporting moviegoers to a bygone era of the silver screen. Renovated in 2000, the spacious art-deco theater drapes its large screens in scarlet curtains, and wraparound, swivel lounge chairs and tables wait to support patrons as they immerse themselves in the digital sound and projection pouring forth from the latest Hollywood hits. The theater doesn't only sate the imagination's appetite with lush filmscapes; servers shell out light finger foods and hearty pizzas and sandwiches throughout the movie, quieting growling bellies that may otherwise spoil the film's ending. Though not included with this deal, alcohol is available via Fox Bay's wait staff and at the lobby bar.
Beneath the night sky's smattering of stars, Cascade Drive-In projects double features of the latest first-run films. Customers tune car radios to 88.5 FM or attach celebrity impersonators to their car windows to hear audio synchronized to the narratives unfurling onscreen. Throughout the evening, moviegoers can chow down on Cascade Drive-In's concessions or dump their own charcoal into the theater's onsite grill to simmer feasts for friends gathered in the picnic area.
It's safe to say that the team at Plaza Theater has learned a few things about good customer service since the theatre originally opened in 1940. For one, "free refills on popcorn and soda" has become a bit of a slogan around here. Yet those are hardly the only refreshments movie-goers can sip and munch on as they watch first-run films screen thanks to Sony Digital 4K projectors. During movies, servers discreetly bring in made-to-order meals including panini sandwiches and waffles. The theater even serves traditional fish-fry dinners on Fridays, complete with sides, and pours domestic and premium beers as well.
New releases get an old-fashioned treatment at McHenry Outdoor Theater, a 1950s-style drive-in screening two back-to-back movies every night. With a special focus on family films, the starlit screen shines across comforts including a concession stand vending burgers, brats, pizza, and hot dogs, and a dog-friendly policy to ensure everyone has someone cuddly to grab during the scary parts. While the story unfolds on screen, the theater pumps the sound through complimentary radios, and approximately half the viewing spots are equipped with vintage speakers that complete the timeless slice of Americana. Besides new releases, which are regularly updated every two weeks, the theater might show anything from golden oldies to alternative comedies to classic blockbusters.
At the historic Highland Park Theatre, families and film buffs happily munch handfuls of fresh popcorn as spine-tingling thrillers, uproarious comedies, and rich, moving dramas play out on the big screen. The venerable North Shore movie house dates back to 1925, when it operated as the 1,200-seat Alcyon Theatre, which had a single screen that showed silent footage of cowboys racing on horseback, swashbucklers crossing swords, and complex romance plots communicated through drawn-out games of Pictionary. Today, powerful sound systems in the building's four theaters broadcast the dialogue of crowd-pleasing Hollywood blockbusters, as well as critically acclaimed independent films and imported foreign masterpieces.
As recently as 2009, Buffalo Grove Theater was still a sub-run theater, drawing in audiences with lower-priced films whose opening weekends were a few months past. These days, however, the theater is the best of both worlds, sticking to its lower prices while hosting screenings of just-released Hollywood films. The move cemented its place as a favorite community hangout?CBS Chicago called it "one of the northwest suburbs? best-kept secrets" in a roundup of the Best Indie Movie Theaters in Chicago.
The on-screen entertainment isn't limited to movies: at private parties, gamers can play their favorite Xbox titles on one of the Buffalo Grove's big screens. Fun inside the five-auditorium theater continues off-screen with free kids' egg hunts every Easter, which complement the free dropped-piece-of-popcorn hunts that take place year-round.