Gene Siskel Film Center

gene siskel film center
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Located right across the street from the Chicago Theater in the heart of the city’s Theater District (and State Street shopping district), the Gene Siskel Film Center is a refreshing response to the bustle of the shops, theaters, and eateries in the area. As soon as you step inside the Film Center, you can be whisked away from State Street and Chicago’s harsh weather to anywhere and anytime in the world. Showing films from any decade and any country, the Gene Siskel Film Center offers a unique cinematic experience you will not find elsewhere in the city, even other independent theaters.

A long-standing public program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), the Film Center was named in 2000 for renowned film critic Gene Siskel, who was known internationally, along with his longtime partner Roger Ebert, as one of the key figures in modern film journalism.

Siskel was born in Chicago and raised in suburb Glencoe, where he became interested in movies at an early age. After attending Yale, he joined the Army Reserves, where he began writing press releases and developed an interest in journalism. He began working at the Chicago Tribune in 1969, the beginning of his legendary career. After reporting for a few short months, Siskel applied to be the Tribune’s head film critic. He was quickly hired, and he held the position for thirty years, providing an insightful voice to the paper’s film section and creating a lasting impact on film criticism. In 1975, after building his television persona as a film critic for WBBM, Siskel was invited to co-host with Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert the movie review program “Opening Soon at a Theater Near You,” and the famed duo of “Siskel and Ebert” was born.

Siskel was a supporter of the Film Center at the SAIC since its inception and served on its board of directors later in his life. He was a natural choice as the Film Center’s namesake because he championed the Center and its mission in articles and interviews throughout his long career.

The Gene Siskel Film Center offers visitors unique, world-class independent, international, and classic films. On any given night at the film center, you can choose among a few options, ranging from a classic Hitchcock film to a recent, critically acclaimed documentary to a ’90s Taiwanese film. The film center also runs several themed festivals monthly, and there is always something new playing.

When you arrive at the Film Center, you can immediately discern it’s part of the SAIC. The school’s dorm building is right next door, and several arts students hang around smoking on the street. Once you push your way past the brooding artists and ascend the staircase to the second floor of the Film Center building, you are greeted by a giant portrait of Siskel himself and a sleek decor with understated photography and modern fixtures and furniture. The concessions consist of the standard theater fare, bottled beer, and select wines. Grab your favorites and head to one of the two auditoriums for your movie of choice. The auditoriums are small, understated, but cozy and the seats are surprisingly comfortable.

If you’re a dedicated cinephile, consider a membership at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Enjoy discounted movie prices (only $6!), discounted admission to lectures ($4), a subscription to the monthly schedule, free advance screening tickets to major motion pictures, and more. Individual memberships are only $50 annually. If you find yourself returning to the Film Center again and again for their films, festivals, and events, the membership may be a great way to show your support and receive incredible discounts.

Siskel often ended his interviews by asking his subjects, “What do you know for sure?” What I know for sure is not only that Siskel had a lasting effect on Chicago and the film world, but also that the Gene Siskel Film Center is a fitting tribute to his legacy. Its film repertoire is unique, provocative, and the Center is a beacon for independent films, festivals, lectures, and thought, making it an awesome way to celebrate the art of movie-making and the legendary Gene Siskel.

The Essentials
Location: 164 North State Street
Price: General Admission: $11, Students: $7, Film Center Members: $6, SAIC Faculty, Staff, and Students: $4
Phone: 312.846.2600

Getting there:
L: Red Line Lake Stop; Brown, Green, Purple, Orange, Pink Lines Lake Stop

About Molly Tranberg

Molly Tranberg loves discovering new things in Chicago–especially all of its wonderful food. She is a freelance writer and editor currently working from her very comfy couch on the Northside of Chicago. Her dream is to one day ride a segway around the city and heli-ski in Alaska.

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