posted by ThrHistoricalSociety on December 4, 2015 at 6:12 pm


Milwaukee’s oldest operating movie theater turns 100 this month — and is marking the occasion by showing a movie that’s almost as old as the theater. Learn more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Originally built as a 1,200-seat “photo playhouse” with room for a pipe organ and an orchestra, the Downer was renovated and converted into a two-screen theater in 1990. It’s been part of the Landmark Theatres chain — which also owns Milwaukee’s second-oldest theater, the Oriental — since 1989.

“The Downer was one of the finest and most modernly equipped motion picture houses in a residential district in the country, making it the prototype for "neighborhood” theatres at the time. It cost nearly $65,000 to build and boasted a seating capacity of 1,200. Music being an important accessory to the motion picture back then, the Downer had not only a Weickhardt pipe organ, but an orchestra as well.“ – The Downer Theatre website

The Landmark Downer Theatre, 2589 N. Downer Ave., first opened its doors on Dec. 3, 1915. On Dec. 10 of this year, the Downer will show “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” the classic German Expressionist movie from 1920.

In “Caligari,” a young man goes to a carnival and meets a mysterious man who has a somnambulist who does his bidding. The movie’s surreal sets and early post-World War I subtext make it a standout of the silent era.

Learn more about the theatre and get tickets for the screening here:

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ABOUT THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Founded by Ben Hall in 1969, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres.

Learn more about historic theatres on our website at


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