Chicago Architecture Center and Music Box Theatre team up to offer a design-centered, at-home film festival Memorial Day weekend

Still from The Hudsucker Proxy, 1994. Image courtesy of NBCUniversal

Expanding upon its popular, weekly mini magazine [email protected] and CAC Live series of online events, the Chicago Architecture Center reached out this spring to the Music Box Theatre with the idea to theme an at-home film festival on “how filmmakers use architecture to tell extraordinary stories.” Called Celluloid Skylines, the program runs Friday through Monday over Memorial Day weekend and features one film per day, with live discussions co-hosted by CAC staff and special guests. Registration is open now through noon Central Time on May 22 and discounted for current members of both organizations.

Christopher Hawthorne guest co-hosts the Celluloid Skylines discussion on Blade Runner, May 22 at 8pm Central Time

Each guest co-host is a subject expert on the buildings and architecture seen in each film. Leading the conversation May 22 about 1982 science-fiction cult classic Blade Runner is Christopher Hawthorne, former architecture critic for The Los Angeles Times and now Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles. (Hawthorne is also a new professor at the University of Southern California’s Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences). Set in an imaginary 2019 where cars fly and android “replicants” are indistinguishable from humans, Blade Runner shrewdly uses real-life locations including Los Angeles Union Station, the Bradbury Building and the Frank Lloyd Wright−designed Ennis-Brown House for its interiors.

Still from Blade Runner, 1982. Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.

Critically acclaimed 2017 film Columbus, by Korean-American director Kogonada, follows as the festival’s Saturday-night selection. Actor John Cho plays the son of a celebrated architecture scholar who strikes up a friendship with Casey, played by Haley Lu Richardson, upon returning home to visit his father. Midwest design buffs will likely know at least some of the history of Columbus and why it’s a mecca for Modernist architecture. Gallerist and Exhibit Columbus Director Anne Surak joins the Celluloid Skylines discussion to go deeper into how the film capitalizes on the Indiana city’s world-class assets.

Anne Surak guest co-hosts the Celluloid Skylines discussion on Columbus, May 23 at 8pm Central Time
Aaron Mazeika guest co-hosts the Celluloid Skylines discussion on An Engineer Imagines, May 24 at 8pm Central Time

On Sunday evening, May 24, festival attendees will be treated to the new documentary An Engineer Imagines, about Peter Rice, the Irish structural engineer best known for his work on the groundbreaking Centre Pompidou in Paris and iconic Sydney Opera House. “A man of impeccable taste, Rice would appreciate the job that [film director Marcus] Robinson has done,” says Donald Clarke in his glowing review for The Irish Times.  The guest host for this discussion is also a structural engineer: Aaron Mazeika of global design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Jean L. Guarino, PhD guest co-hosts the Celluloid Skylines discussion on The Hudsucker Proxy, May 25 at 8pm Central Time.

Celluloid Skylines concludes on Memorial Day with The Hudsucker Proxy, a madcap 1994 comedy from filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, starring Paul Newman and Tim Robbins. Set in New York City at the end of 1958, the film’s meticulously detailed urban landscape is in fact a composite of scale models and real locations—Art Deco buildings specifically—in Chicago and Wilmington, North Carolina. Jean L. Guarino is the festival’s final co-host; among other accomplishments, the scholar and researcher contributed essays on multiple Chicago skyscrapers of the 1920s for the book “Art Deco Chicago: Designing Modern America.”

Still from Columbus, 2017. Image courtesy of Superlative Films

In addition to the live discussions, during which festival attendees can ask questions, those who register for Celluloid Skylines will receive “care packages” via email with cocktail recipes themed on each film, a clip of Music Box Theatre organist Dennis Scott to play as an overture, and “a set of prompts to encourage design-themed household discussions.” The price is $9 per film, or $27 for a four-film festival pass, down to $7 and $21 for CAC and Music Box Theatre members. Each evening’s discussion begins at 8pm Central Time.

Still from An Engineer Imagines, 2019. Image courtesy of Music Box Films

Celluloid Skylines is featured the Chicago Architecture Center’s mini magazine [email protected] for May 14; subscriptions to [email protected] are free and include additional free and exclusive content for members. Visit to subscribe.

All photos are courtesy of Chicago Architecture Center and Music Box Theatre.

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