Historic Lake View Theater Launches ‘Horror Drive-In' To Survive Pandemic

Staff at the Music Box Theatre in Lake View say capacity restrictions could put them out of business if they don't get creative.

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Since 1929, the iconic Music Box Theatre on Southport Avenue in Chicago's Lake View neighborhood has been showing off a unique experience for generations.

“The idea right now is to just stay afloat. Stay in business,” said Music Box Theatre general manager, Ryan Oestreich.

Since Chicago placed capacity limits on businesses, the theater has laid off more than half of its employees.

With the theater’s main auditorium able to seat 750 guests, the city’s 50-person limit only allows the auditorium to hold 6% of its total capacity. Oestreich said the theatre is lucky to break even.

“If I could sell 100 tickets, just 50 more tickets, I could easily sleep better at night,” he said.

The current 50-person capacity limit allows social distancing well beyond six feet in the large auditorium. Oestreich said social distancing is as much as 20 feet, currently.

The theatre has had to get creative in recent months.

For the first time in the theater’s history, it’s hosting a 31-night drive-in movie experience at 2342 S. Throop St. in the city's Pilsen neighborhood.

Appropriately called, “The Music Box of Horrors,” up to 130 cars can fit in the outdoor space. Classic horror movies will be shown every night during the month of October with a double feature on Friday and Saturday nights.

He’s hoping this will prevent a premature curtain call for The Music Box Theatre.

“We should have historical places that we can keep going to,” said Oestreich. “[To] know our history and actually live it.”

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