Max Bever produces "I Live at the Music Box," a 12-part podcast on the 93-year-old movie theater. Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

LAKEVIEW — On any given night, there are lines outside Lakeview’s Music Box Theatre full of people ready to laugh, clap and cheer along to one of its films.

It’s a communal experience catching an old film or cult classic at the Music Box, said Max Bever, who saw his first film there in 2001. He hopes to capture that special moviegoing culture in a new podcast dedicated to the 93-year-old theater.

“I Live at the Music Box” is a 12-part podcast series with each episode focusing on a topic relating to the theater. Listeners will learn about how the theater bounced back from the pandemic, its history and the festivals it holds throughout the year.

“It’s a love letter to one of my favorite places on Earth,” Bever said. “I know the Music Box is a happy place for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people in the city or people who travel back to Chicago just to go to the Music Box. This podcast is for them.”

Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave. Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

The podcast’s sixth episode, which dropped Friday, focuses on the theater’s Music Box of Horrors festival, a 24-hour horror film series happening Saturday and Sunday. In the episode, Bever interviews festival curator Will Morris and film and culture critic Katie Rife.

“‘Music Box of Horrors’ and its previous iteration, ‘the Massacre,’ has been a sold-out destination for years,” Bever said. “This year, the front half is front-loaded with some really unique stuff, especially their silent film … .”

The festival always starts with a silent horror film and the traditional Music Box organ, so Bever likes to arrive early, he said. He expects to make it through seven of the festival’s films.

The most horror films Bever’s ever seen during the 24-hour run is nine, and that’s because he lived in a studio apartment in the Music Box’s building where he could take a nap, Bever said.

“So the title is a bit of a joke among me and my friends because I lived here both literally and figuratively,” Bever said. “I’m here so often, most of my friends know to find me here or invite me here.”

The title also includes anyone else who finds a sense of comfort or refuge at the theater, Bever said.

“For the Music Box, this has been home for many people who love film,” Bever said. “The title is ultimately for anyone who finds themselves attracted to here, looking for older movies.”

Bever got the idea for the podcast when the Music Box reopened in 2021 from a pandemic closure, he said. The theater threw a Back on the Big Screen festival, which was the focus of his first episode. In it, Bever talks about how the theater is bouncing back from the pandemic and filmgoing’s fragility.

“There was all this talk of ‘nobody will go to the movies,’ but you’re looking at the Music Box selling out shows every other night now,” Bever said. “If anybody was worried about if people are still seeing movies, well, they’re here at the Music Box.”

The difference is most of Music Box’s films are older flicks, cult classics or international pieces, Bever said.

“These are the types of ones that are drawing a crowd — and a very interactive crowd — to the Music Box,” Bever said.

Other episodes:

  • A look at the Music Box’s 93-year history
  • The theater’s “Midnight Movie” screenings of cult classics
  • The Music Box’s “David Lynch: A Complete Retrospective” festival
  • How the theater fosters friendships and community
  • An upcoming episode on its “Rated Q” series of queer films

Once all 12 episodes air, Bever plans to compile his interviews and research into a book, he said.

“The secret’s out that this is the coolest movie venue in Chicago, and this project is me taking an opportunity to create a lasting tribute to my favorite place on Earth,” Bever said.

Help Block Club Get
500 More Subscribers!

Subscribe to Block Club now and you’ll get a free 16-by-20-inch Chicago neighborhood print of your choice, helping us reach our goal of getting 500 more subscribers before 2024. Click here to subscribe or click here to gift a subscription.

Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: