photo of the chicago theatre in the loop area of chicago

Neighborhood News: Chicago Loop’s Gene Siskel Film Center pays homage with quality films

photo of the chicago theatre in the loop area of chicago

Other generations may have a different idea, but for me, the Golden Age of film criticism was probably the late 1970’s to the early 2000’s.

That’s when two Chicago film critics defined the genre for the nation…Gene Siskel, of the Chicago Tribune and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times. The polar opposites became widely known for their “thumbs up, thumbs down’ critique and ‘At the Movies’ syndicated TV show.

Both have passed on…Siskel in 1999, Ebert in 2013, but they leave a legacy in the film critics that followed, such as Richard Roeper, who replaced Siskel on the show. 

But Siskel and Ebert will never be forgotten, thanks to websites like, and the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State Street.

As their website notes, Siskel “possessed a laser-like ability to discern quality in everything. He always looked for the finest; expected it and appreciated it. That is what drew him to the Film Center at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There, Gene found a superior showcase for the world’s greatest films. He championed the Film Center from its very inception, as did his distinguished fellow film critic, Roger Ebert. When asked by a journalist to list his three favorite things about Chicago, Gene named Michael Jordan, Mayor Daley, and the Film Center.”

It was only fitting then, that the Film Center was renamed in honor of the man who could discern quality. It’s directly south of the ABC Building, where Siskel & Ebert and successor series Ebert & Roeper recorded weekly from 1996 until 2008.

A Center for Excellence in Film

The Film Center’s programming includes annual film festivals that celebrate diverse voices and international cultures, premieres of trailblazing work by today’s independent filmmakers, restorations and revivals of essential films from cinema history, and insightful, provocative discussions with filmmakers and media artists. Altogether, the Film Center hosts over 1,600 screenings and 200 filmmaker appearances every year. 

Film Festivals Throughout the Year 

The Film Center hosts several film festivals annually, highlighting up and coming filmmakers and voices that might otherwise be muted or unheard, including the Black Harvest Film Festival in November, The Chicago European Union Film Festival in early March, the Annual Festival of Films from Iran in February, the Asian American Showcase and the upcoming Chicago Palestine Film Festival, from April 20–May 5. 

‘CLI-FI’ Lecture Series

Currently, they are hosting a CLI-FI LECTURE SERIES, focused on climate change, to see, understand, and respond to the escalating crisis of climate change. CliFi will run January 30 through May 7, with lecturers Shawn Michelle Smith and Oliver Sann. One of the films featured is 2021’s NEPTUNE FROST, onTuesday, April 2, at  6pm, focuses on a band of liberated coltan miners, which has coalesced into an anti-colonialist computer hacker consortium situated in the elevated terrain of Burundi. They endeavor to orchestrate a revolt against the despotic regime that is subjecting both the region’s innate resources and its populace to exploitation.

On Tuesday, April 9, at 6pm the Gene Siskel Film Center presents Alfonso Cuarón’s CHILDREN OF MEN, set in a bleak, near-future England in which global economies have collapsed and an unprecedented migrant crisis has emerged. Compounding the crisis is the fact of human infertility—no human babies have been born in 18 years. A small group of determined activists fights to protect the future of humanity. For information and tickets, click here.

Alison Moran-Powers and Dean’s Team Chicago