The good news for the just-opened Kerasotes Showplace Icon Theatre in the South Loop is that plenty of Chicagoans think the concept lends a much-needed air of civility to moviegoing: free parking, no preshow advertising (other than trailers), no shrieking video games in the lobby, no kids without a guardian after 7 p.m., reserved seating for everyone, and, best of all, a bona fide bar on the premises.
The bad news is we might love it too much. The theatre wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer volume of cinemaphiles who showed up on the first freezing Saturday of the new year.
Along with every other person in a 20-mile radius, I chose that particular night to see the Meryl Streep flick It’s Complicated—a stress-free pick for easing into 2010, my friend Kevin and I thought. But complicated it was, as the Icon struggled to keep up with the crowds during its second week in business.
After selecting our seats (each ticket window features a screen that lets guests choose from the seats available, similar to purchasing airfare) and buying the tickets ($12.50 each), we headed up to the second-floor Lobby Bar—a sleek Jerry Kleiner affair with a full menu of cocktails and upscale bites—thinking we’d be fine with an hour to kill. Not so. The place was slammed, and the late arrival of our vodka sodas ($6 each) and prosciutto pizza ($13) almost made us miss the movie. Tip: When placing your order, tell your server what time your movie starts so you won’t find yourself frantically pounding drinks as the previews roll—or pay an extra $5 for VIP seating in one of the two theatres that allow food and drinks inside (not all screens do). Still, the colorful space provided a plush waiting room for the diverse, slightly dressed-up crowd, and, when we weren’t gazing at the skyline twinkling outside the bar’s huge windows, we were content to people-watch.
Happily, a return visit on Wednesday night to see the musical Nine was smooth sailing, sans weekend masses. Parking was a breeze, lines were short, and the bartenders were the masters of their domain. As I sat at the bar, sipping my cocktail at a leisurely pace, I smiled, knowing there was no need to rush. My seat was waiting for me, and not even the tallest patron in the theatre could block my view of Daniel Day Lewis. Forget what you’ve heard about Avatar: This is revolutionary movie magic at its finest.