There are thousands of film festivals worldwide, (The Guardian estimates there are some 500 major film festivals and many more “not major” varieties. But Chicago Film Critics Festival is one of the few run by film critics (hence the name) and as such stands a bit apart from other festivals.
The Chicago Critics Film Festival 2023
Dates: Saturday, May 11 – Wednesday, May 15, 2023
Where: Music Box Theatre
Address: 3733 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
The Chicago Film Critics Association is a not-for-profit 503(c) founded in 1990 by film critic Sue Kiner. The festival is held in Chicago’s famous Music Box Theatre, also home to Music Box Films, which is responsible for releasing arthouse films and other important cinema.
The festival is a three-time nominee for the annual Best Of Chicago poll, and this unique festival features selections chosen by members of the Chicago Film Critics Association.
Past guests have included Aubrey Plaza (The Little Hours), Bobcat Goldthwait (Call Me Lucky, Willow Creek) Paul Schrader (First Reformed), Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell), Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Ti West, and many others.
The Chicago Critics festival features in-person screenings, no assigned seats, and you can attend using a festival pass or by purchasing an individual ticket assuming there are seats available. Tickets or passes are also required for non-film events during the festival including panels, meet-and-greets, parties, etc.
A staff writer from Chicago’s DePaul University campus newspaper noted he wanted more than 40 hours of cinema during the festival’s week-long run.
If you are unfamiliar with film festivals the key to enjoying them is to pace yourself, see as many films as you are comfortable attending in a day–three to four is a good benchmark for a newcomer.
And thanks to the Music Box’s location and its own offerings (the Music Box lounge and bar is a great place to hang out before the shows) you can make an entire day and night of it–there are plenty of local cafes and restaurants on Southport street where the theater is.
The Music Box Theater has been operating since 1929 and the premises have been expanded, upgraded, and improved. That said, the theater has had a reputation for uncomfortable seating (pre-renovation) and it pays to bring a pillow for your back or behind to any film festival, regardless.
Some prefer to attend a film, take a breather, and see another one later rather than hitting screenings back-to-back-to-back. There’s nothing wrong with spreading out the films, as long as you are ok with the notion that most titles in this festival are shown once only. Some festivals, such as Fantastic Fest in Austin, have screened some titles more than once, but the Austin festival has the luxury of eight screens or more to present films on; the Music Box does not.
In 2022, you would have seen a combination of world cinema and popular favorites, including the following titles:
- Cha Cha Real Smooth
- Speak No Evil
- Shorts Program
- A Love Song
- Marcel The Shell With Shoes On
- To Leslie
- Emily The Criminal
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula
- 2nd Chance
- Both Sides Of The Blade
- Hold Your Fire
- Boogie Nights
The Chicago Critics Film Festival is held each year at the Chicago Music Box Theatre at 3733 N. Southport. The price is subject to change year over year, as is the cost of individual film screening tickets.