A nonprofit theater helmed by passionate cinephiles, Facets Cinematheque instills a love of film in its youngest moviegoers through its groundbreaking children's programs. Since establishing their first children's film exhibition series in 1975, the theater's stewards have branched out into education and outreach, introducing students to positive films and the inspiring stories behind them through channels including family film events, in-school screenings, and the Facets Kids Film Camp. They also oversee the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, which presents hundreds of films from around the globe during its annual autumn run. Though the festival caters to its smallest attendees, its scope is impressively large; welcoming over 20,000 attendees each year, the festival often offers the first screenings of award-winning fare, such as recent Academy Award winner The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
In addition to their children's programming, the theater also lights up its silver screen with indie films, award winners, foreign flicks, and documentaries. Celluloid-caretakers curate a collection of reels that seldom see screenings elsewhere in Chicago, frequently enjoying their city debut within the intimate 125-seat theater. Occasionally, production-team members or film experts join audiences immediately following the show for Q&A sessions—known as film dialogues—taking questions, exploring themes, and providing tips for removing stubborn popcorn kernels from teeth. Upcoming films can be found on Facets’ website.
Eyeballs absorb moving pictures thanks to the dual capabilities of Facets’ projection system, which handles digital and 35 mm films with equal aplomb. While the ephemeral stories fill brains with new ideas, soda and popcorn—acquirable at the old-fashioned concession stand—fill mouths with flavors that have defined every classic moviegoing experience since Orson Welles first invented the snack.
Sam Elias knows that being cooped up during long winter days can make people stir-crazy. So in 1993, after moving from Florida, land of palm trees and beaches, to Chicago, land of frigid winds and gray slush, he founded WhirlyBall as a way for people to release pent-up energy even as snow was falling outside. During each competitive WhirlyBall game, which combines aspects of basketball, hockey, and jai alai, players zoom across an indoor 50'x80' court in motorized cars called WhirlyBugs. They wield plastic scoops to toss a wiffle ball back and forth to their teammates before throwing the ball through an elevated goal. Refs keep watch during the games, eliminating score arguments that would otherwise end in sunrise duels. To fuel up for a bout, players nibble teriyaki chicken satay, gourmet pizzas, and prime rib, and swig draft beers, which vary by location.
All three WhirlyBall spots boast off-court diversions such as video games, pool tables, foosball, and air hockey. The Vernon Hills location hosts an indoor rock-climbing wall, and both the Chicago and Vernon Hills locations invite guests into multilevel Lasertron laser-tag arenas, which fill with fog and flashing lights as combatants duck, aim, and invoke Geneva Convention protocols regarding armed conflict.
The Gene Siskel Film Center is as famous to Chicago film-lovers as its namesake TV film critic has been to national audiences. As the Loop's only movie house, it draws crowds with an eclectic mix of programming rather than with blockbusters and violent popcorn battles. The Film Center has been around under the umbrella of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1972, and its curators are devoted to the art of cinema at least as much as the business. A typical weekend night might offer a documentary, a concert film, a foreign classic, and an innovative modern drama?maybe even a world premiere or a guest artist appearance.
The theaters themselves make it easy to be sucked into the screen, with ultra-plush stadium-style seats, a cafe that serves wine and espresso in addition to traditional concessions, and capacity for 16mm, 35mm, and digital projections. According to Chicagoist, it's not simply a pleasant moviegoing experience?"point-for-point, the Siskel is the finest place to catch a movie in Chicago."
The 'K' of the Chicago Sky's logo towers above the other letters, two thin prongs poking out from the top?a nod to the most famous of the city's iconic buildings. Fittingly inspired by the Chicago skyline, the Sky's uniforms have represented the Windy City since 2006. In those years, some of the WNBA's top players have donned the blue and yellow threads, including Candice Dupree, Epiphanny Price, and Sylvia Fowles?a defensive star who also wore red, white, and blue in London in 2012. In 2010, the Sky transitioned from the UIC Pavilion to a new, permanent home court, packing its neatly folded coaches into suitcases and moving to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
For 18 years, Chicago a cappella has delighted audiences with concerts that eschew instruments in favor of harmonious melodies woven by sopranos, basses, and tenors. This year's holiday program follows in the company's tradition of building piebald programs of ancient and modern songs from around the world, juxtaposing the 14th century carol "In Natali Domini" with Swedish folk songs and African American spirituals. Contemporary tunes include "Longfellow's Carol," composed by Chicago a cappella founder and artistic director Jonathan Miller, as well as the hip-hop infused Hanukkah song "Miracle," which blends reggae, rock, and beatbox sounds into a Yuletide ditty more unconventional than a red-and-green-striped zebra. As accomplished vocalists pipe "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," "Joy to the World," and "Carol of the Bells," audiences' Christmas spirit soars until tinsel spontaneously comes out of their noses.