Avalon Theater

2473 South Kinnickinnic Avenue,
Milwaukee, WI 53207

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JimRankin
JimRankin on August 20, 2006 at 11:47 pm

Yes, sad to say, the island box office as well as the name sign were removed by the previous owner. He was determined to let residents know that he was going to convert the theatre to office space if the city continued to refuse his applications for liquor and cabaret licenses(he never got the licenses). He had large plackards mounted over the attraction boards of the marquee advertising “Office Space For Rent” but it appears that there was no progress to such conversion indoors at the time of sale to the current owner. No doubt ticket sales, when they resume, will be handeled from a table in the ticket lobby as they have been for over 20 years now, though it is possible to reconstruct the box office. The MODJESKA did just that about ten years ago.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on August 20, 2006 at 4:46 pm

It looks like the box office was removed, judging by photos posted on the theatre’s web site. Anyone know why this happened?

Hal
Hal on April 11, 2006 at 4:30 am

This is not really Avalon related, but Jim Rankin mentions the pipe organ in the Weill Center in Sheboygan, for what it’s worth, the organ is a Kimball that was originally installed in the Madison, WI Orpheum Theatre. Marty Dohm removed the organ many years ago and for a long time it was in his home in the Madison area. He then had it in storage after he sold his home, but sort of playable while in storage, it then made it’s way up to Sheboygan. Just thought you’d like to know, it sounds great in it’s new location too!

JimRankin
JimRankin on March 7, 2006 at 9:07 am

Upon rereading this page I realize that I never did summarize that ‘press conference’ of Oct. 20th due to health problems then pressing, so I will do so while I can.

About 100 people attended that session in the Avalon’s auditorium including not only Mr. Barczak, but also local politicians and a lot of young married locals with children in tow. Under improvised lighting (tiny electric stars twinkeled in the ceiling but made for insufficient light to see one another, hence the theatre spot lights cast upon the blank screen and the seated audience). Mr. Barczak accepted the plaudits of the guests when he made clear his determination to bring the theatre back to profitable use as well as beauty, and therefore NOT as a movie palace, a single screen form no longer practical today, as he explained. In that vein he admitted that it appears unlikely that the pipe organ will be reinstalled. There will be films of some sort, but he dodged repeated questions as to the nature of either films or performers to come. It was made clear that it must be a multiple use facility in order to survive, hance his determination to use all areas of the building to “make a go of it.” Mention was again made of turning part of the small lobby into seating area for a projected restaurant to be created in the store space adjoining the lobby to the south. He also is looking into making the stage serve multiple purposes, so will probably do away with the huge screen which now is mounted in front of the entire proscenium upon a timber forestage. It was stressed that while there is every intention to restore it cosmetically, major repairs and alterations will have to come first, so any use of the theatre will not be seen at the earliest until early 2008. This conference, which the media mostly did not attend, ended after questions were entertained —including the perenial one about the need for parking (without any firm statements on the matter)— about one hour in a relieved and optomistic mood. Time will tell if his aspirations come to realization.

JimRankin
JimRankin on October 19, 2005 at 11:03 pm

This fine article appeared in the free Milwaukee monthly newspaper “The Bay View Compass” (www.bayviewcompass.com) and even features comments by yours truly in this October 2005 issue:

“A LOOK INSINDE THE AVALON"
by Michael Timm
The 21st century neo-American dream includes sitting on the couch with a remote, controlling your home theater, 6.1 surround sound, and projection screen television in HDTV.

But this age of increasingly personalized, private entertainment follows an American entertainment age as opulent as it was public and as grand as new technologies are staggering.

Poised at one intersection between past and future stands a monument to that lost age, when the movie-going experience was as important as the film shown. It’s a Bay View movie theater built in 1929â€"and a structure worthy of being called a theatreâ€"the Avalon Theatre.

Barczak’s Vision
Though projected clouds have long since fled from the Avalon’s ceiling where electric stars still twinkle on a field of blueâ€"and in some places the sky is literally falling where the plaster has caved inâ€"the Avalon Theatre still bears undeniable charm.

Lee Barczak, who purchased the Avalon in April, will unveil specific renovation plans in the theater at 2473 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. at 6:30pm Thursday, Oct. 20.

Barczak, president of the Greendale investment firm Morgan Kenwood Ltd. who has since organized the Avalon Society, provided a glimpse inside the long-neglected theater at a Sept. 29 Forward Bay View meeting and briefly discussed his vision for the theater which closed in 2000.

“One of the things I think is important is maintaining this kind of architecture,” Barczak said.

Barczak plans to renovate the Avalon as a multi-screen movie house and “multiuse entertainment facility,” while respecting its architectural heritage as a movie palace.

“We’ve gotta have movies here,” said Barczak, “I’d love to see some interesting concerts. I would also like to see us operating with a much more interesting concessions program.”

He hopes this would include a liquor license to serve alcohol during movies or performances.

When the previous owner applied for a liquor license to make the Avalon more competitive, he drew community ire, in part because residents feared rowdy crowds leaving rock concerts. But Barczak said he envisions performance music that would not draw particularly rowdy crowds. He mentions jazz, blues, or folk as likely.

He has the support of Tony Zielinski, 14th district alderman, who supported a $75,000 grant passed in June to help offset renovation costs.

“I think we’ll get support,” Barczak said, for the liquor license.

Barczak said he intends to make Milwaukee’s first theater designed for talking pictures into “a theater for the whole family.” He’s received feedback diverse in specific wishes (with interest in independent, first-run, and foreign films) but unified in “overwhelming support in terms of bringing the beautiful theater back to its original glory.”

Barczak also said he has a “commitment for one film festival.”

A Virtual Tour
“I’ve seen a lot of neighborhood houses like this, and this has a great deal of charm,” said local theater historian Jim Rankin. “It isn’t genius. It just fell together well.”

The Avalon was designed by Russell Barr Williamson, an architectural disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright who also designed the Eagle’s Club but is more known for his numerous Prairie School houses throughout southeastern Wisconsin and the Midwest.

Milwaukee’s last atmospheric theater (those with interiors designed to make audiences feel they are under open air), the Avalon was once one of six.

Rankin said the exterior façade that originally rose to an apex was struck by lightning. The original Avalon sign was vertical. And at one time, a Paramount style marquee with chasing light bulbs overhung the sidewalk.

Inside, a cozy ticket lobby Rankin calls “a deliberate emotional airlock” opens into the red carpeted grand lobby expanse beneath a wrought iron chandelier, a black twisted column, and false wood ceiling beams beside the curving stair leading up to the unseen balcony. This transition effectively transported movie-goers into another place and time where a variety of architectural styles created a baroque, exotic, transcendent environment.
Portals between the lobby and auditorium were originally draped, possibly in luxurious velvets, Rankin said.

Inside the auditorium, flanked by arcades supporting Spanish Mediterranean style roof tiles, the blue ceiling and its star lights make the neck crane upward.

Shrubbery originally lined the auditorium’s horizon line, and at one point in its history the Avalon was actually known as the Garden because of this attribute.

“They just took a real shrub and sprayed it with glycerin,” Rankin said. He mentions a new, safer technique that could replicate the same effect by spray painting aluminum foil.

The original twinkling lights system was replaced in the 1960s, Rankin said.

The Avalon cost $1 million by the time it was completed in 1929, opening just five months before Black Tuesday.
“Most people didn’t realize how expensive these buildings were. I don’t know what to compare them to. Nothing’s really enormous like movie palaces anymore,” Rankin said.

Costs and Challenges
In 2005, Barczak estimates it will cost $1.2 to $1.5 million just to get the Avalon into a workable condition.
“There’s a lot of structural things that need to be done,” he said. “Our first challenge will be the roof.”
Repairs will begin shortly on roof damage and several leaks, and he hopes to contract an architect by the year’s end.

The theater’s Wurlitzer pipe organ 2004 was removed and stored by its owner, the Dairyland Theatre Organ Society, when fears that further neglect would cause more serious damage.

It now seems unlikely the organ, damaged by plaster, water, mold and mildew, will return to the theater.
“I would like it but I can’t say it would happen,” Barczak said.

Who will operate the theater may be revealed Oct. 20. Discussion had included Landmark Corporation, which operates Milwaukee’s Downer and Oriental theaters, but Barczak did not yet indicate his final decision.

“They’re interested in the theater. The biggest issue we have with Landmark is we basically have to turn it over to them,” said Barczak, who is concerned about making sure the already risky theater operation would make business sense in the context of the Milwaukee market. “We have to be very careful with how we structure this.”
Barczak did say his plan will include at least two movie screens, though he did not elaborate on where these would be or if the current main screen would remain intact.

“You cannot survive with a one-screen theater,” he said.

Currently a 1954 Cinemascope screen hangs in the 9,500 square foot, 1670-capacity main auditorium, with 780 seats in the balcony. This screen was placed in front of the proscenium arch over the main stage to accommodate the widescreen films of the 1950s and 60s that attempted to woo audiences away from their television sets. It obscures two twisted columns that flanked the original screen.

Another smaller screen was added in the 1990s and currently occupies the backstage area, with seats transplanted from the main auditorium.

Lack of theater insulation will make today’s heating costs expensive for the Avalon, Rankin said. Electric bills would also be expensive, he estimates.

Transforming the Avalon into live performance space also poses challenges because the Cinemascope screen cuts off part of the stage and affects acoustics. Limited backstage space would also challenge larger performance groups, Rankin said. “It’s designed only for the smallest vaudeville.”

An American Cathedral
Renovating the Avalon is an enterprise counting on a best-of-both-worlds approach to 21st century entertainment cultureâ€"combining the comforts of a home theater with the experience of seeing a movie publicly in the American architectural equivalent of a cathedral.

It’s something that needs to be done correctly, not fast, he said, with the earliest potential reopening in 2007.
“We want people to be patient,” Barczak said. “This is not a project that is going to happen quickly.”

Rankin is hopeful, but realizes the perfect storm of challenges on the Avalon’s horizonâ€"no parking, expensive renovations, expensive upkeep and a declining movie-going market.

“Must it support itself or is it a subsidized museum with no parking?” he asks rhetorically. For the Avalon to succeed, he said, “It would be a miracle.”

It’s a miracle Barczak hopes to accomplish with patience, perseverance and good business sense.
“I’ve always been a movie nut,” Barczak said. “It’s kind of in my blood, my background.”

And Barczak, a Pio Nono (now Thomas More) High School grad, has historic links to the area.
“I had many a date in this particular theater,” he recalls.

A layer of plaster dust now covers much of the Avalon’s drafty interior, and some of its seats have been ripped out and stacked backstage. But the cavernous space remains capped by the blue vault of artificial sky whose stars still twinkle. Lit harshly by spotlights, the silent auditorium evokes the eerie underwater wreckage of the Titanic, and it’s not hard to imagine Barczak reconstructing the Avalon’s gilded grandeur in his mind’s eye.
“When people come in here,” he says, “I want them to just say, ‘Wow.’”


Theis newspaper will keep this front page article in their archive for a limited time, but without the 5x7-inch color photo of the Avalon’s balcony ceiling showing a breach caused by rain water. Let us hope that tonight’s press conference reveals successful and artistic plans.

JimRankin
JimRankin on October 1, 2005 at 9:40 am

It is a pleasure to announce that Milwaukee’s AVALON THEATRE is being reborn, but just as what is not now known. Two days ago, a conference among community leaders of Bay View, the neighborhood in which the Avalon sits, met at the theatre under the invitation of new owner, Lee Barczak, to discuss the future of the building in the minds of its neighbors. It was related to me that the goal was to get the word out to the locals to get their input, and to that end, half sheets of paper were handed out to be distributed, titled: “THE AVALON THEATRE, Projected Opening — 2007” Responses were asked for in writing to three questions about the use of the former movie palace, and if one wanted to be notified of future events/developments, one’s name, address, and E-mail address were asked for. Significant to all of this is the appearance of the theatre’s new web site: http://www.theavalontheatre.com/ Go to its page: “About Us” > “Feedback” and there type in your suggestions for a successful future, as well as any other suggestions you might have. Let us hope this charming atmospheric (stars ‘n’ clouds) theatre will soon sing again, available parking or not.

JimRankin
JimRankin on September 22, 2005 at 1:28 am

There is only one antique photo of the interior that I know of, and it shows only the rear half of the auditorium. There is also one vintage photo of the facade. When I find a Web site with the proper terms to upload them to, I will scan my two xeroxes of the photos and you will be able to view them there. I will post the link when I select a free service that has some longevity of displayed images.

Patsy
Patsy on September 21, 2005 at 5:39 pm

Jim: When I posted the above comments I hadn’t read the June 15th newspaper article. I would love to see an interior photo so perhaps ‘lostmemory’ will provide one!

Patsy
Patsy on September 21, 2005 at 5:31 pm

Jim: You being in the Milwaukee area makes me ask the following question……do you and/or any local preservation groups plan to save this atmospheric? It’s not an Eberson atmospheric, but an atmospheric none the less and worth saving!

JimRankin
JimRankin on September 12, 2005 at 2:14 am

That photo mentioned above was taken prior to the purchase by the current owner who reportedly intends to rehab it as a performanced center of some sort. It appears the place will not become offices in any case.

TimothyRuf
TimothyRuf on June 18, 2005 at 6:58 am

The (City of Milwaukee) Common Council this week approved a $75,000 grant to help with the estimated $1 million remodeling tab at the Avalon, 2469-2483 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

http://www.jsonline.com/bym/news/jun05/334641.asp

From the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinal – June 15th, 2005.

There is hope after all.

JimRankin
JimRankin on May 14, 2005 at 7:36 am

The OnMilwaukee.com web site announced on April 21st, at:
View link
that the AVALON has been purchased by a local investor who anticipates returning it to a performance space, though the exact nature of that space is still to be announced. He remarks that there is a lot of work to be done to make the neglected movie palace workable again, so we should not expect to see it open for at least a year. This sounds promising, but one shouldn’t hold his breath with this theatre with no parking space at all. I will contact him as I did the previous owners to help them with restoration ideas such as how to make flameproof shrubbry to replace the long-gone shrubs that originally adorned the horizon line around the sky edge, but I hope that they succeed even if sufficient volunteers are not forthcoming. Let us hope that this new ownership will see many wonderful years to come for this fine atmospheric!

AndrewWillenson
AndrewWillenson on March 29, 2005 at 8:17 pm

I have another comment to make. There are about 20 apartments in the building. Fixed up, there should be high demand for apartments, or even condominiums in the location of the Avalon. There is an ambulance garage next to the building. Perhaps that could be expanded to provide parking for the housing units in the Avalon building. Garage space for the theater itself might also be desirable, although there is (or was) a parking lot across the street.

This theater reopening is very, very good news. Now for the Grand Cinema, in downtown Milwaukee…….

Andrew N. Willenson

AndrewWillenson
AndrewWillenson on March 29, 2005 at 8:11 pm

Thank goodness the Avalon appears to be on the verge of reopening. A blemish on Bay View will be a jewel again. Much damage was probably done to the property both by the botched twinning, and by the approximately 5 years the place was closed. I hope the facility is restored to the way it was in the early 1990s when I first started patronizing the Avalon.

I will patronize the Avalon again. I wish the Landmark company good luck in Bay View.

Sincerely,

Andrew N. Willenson

LLOYD777
LLOYD777 on March 14, 2005 at 10:33 am

FROM: RICHARD SLUPSKI,MONTEREY.CA MARCH 14,2005

TO: ALL THEATER PALACE LOVERS
I grew up in Milwaukee and remember the AVALON very foundly . In the early 70’s my dad had a machine shop on Ward st. and I loved going to see the twinking “sky” of the AVALON" . This is great news that the AVALON is being brought back to it’s former glory because in Monterey they , the comunity ,and the goldenstatetheater group are well on the way to TOTALLY RESTORE inside and out the STATE THEATER . Last Fri the 11 Mar. I enjoyed with at least 600 paying patrons the HAROLD LLOYD silent “Grandma’s Boy” with a live all woman orchestra which was enjoyable beyond tears of joy with many laughs shared by movie lovers from 4 to 100+ . We also have a theater organ peservation group in California Which we also enjoyed a Charlie Chaplin short with Robert Israel on the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Pipe Organ . Mr. Israel also composed and condcted the music For the Harold LLOYD flick. All across the country comunities are getting together and helping restore and mantain these theaters and volunteering as ushers and ticket takers when we have these special monthly shows .

JimRankin
JimRankin on March 13, 2005 at 7:51 am

FROM: JIM RANKIN, MILWAUKEE, MARCH 12, 2005

TO: All Theatres Buffs: Good News re our AVALON THEATRE

Thanks to the eagle eyes of Hugh Swofford comes this:
According to a story in todayâ€\s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel at:
http://www.jsonline.com/bym/news/mar05/308855.asp
The 1929 AVALON on Milwaukeeâ€\s south side in the former village of Bay View, is in the process of being purchased by a local investor, and it looks as though the Landmark chain of movie houses, which includes the ORIENTAL and the DOWNER in Milw., will be the operator of this ‘atmosphericâ€\ type cinema which closed five years ago. After several false starts, it now appears that a deal in earnest, not relying upon a land contract, will come to be, and if so we will then have a grand total of 2 operating movie palaces remaining in the city, out of the 20 we once had (this excludes the DOWNER and the TIMES and the remodeled TOSA (the ROSEBUD CINEMA) which are not really palaces).

I note with favor the kind wishes of Jay Hollis, the proprietor of the ROSEBUD, when he graciously bows out of the Bay View picture by canceling plans for his ROSEBUD-SOUTH that was to be built but a few blocks south of the AVALON, yet gives the AVALON best wishes for success. Rumor has it that he did try to purchase the AVALON, but the price disclosed in the article mentioned, was too high for his means.

This now brings up the question of whether or not the Wurlitzer pipe organ that provided so many fine concerts in the theatre, and which had to be removed just a few months ago due to deteriorating conditions in there, will now be reinstalled to once again entertain so many in Dairyland Theatre Organ Societyâ€\s annual concerts. It would be an irony that it took the removal of the organ to possibly galvanize outsiders into seriously contemplating the future of the ornate theatre, only to have to spend to now return the organ, if that is to be. Let us hope that the new owner will be sympathetic to Dairylandâ€\s interests, unlike the RIVERSIDE‘s management which reportedly demands upwards of $10,000 in advance for Dairyland to perform their own organ in there!

Speaking of pipe organs, Dairyland has just mailed a flyer telling of their next concert to be held in Sheboygan, Sunday, April 3rd at 3PM. It is to be in a converted movie palace which is now the WEILL CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS at 826 N. 6th St., Sheboygan WI. The talented Clark Wilson (remember him for his sojourn at the long-gone Pipe Organ Pizza on Oklahoma Ave.?) will provide a mixed show at $18 general admission at the door, day of show. For the first time, they will also offer a chartered bus departing from four park&ride lots, two in Milwaukee, and one each in Kenosha and Racine, for only $20 including ticket; that is a $2 bus trip, almost as cheap as local transit fare! E-mail me for any additional information desired or phone the Organ Piper Pizza, which is selling cheaper advance sale tickets, at: 414-529-1177.

Let us keep our fingers crossed as to a brighter future for the venerable AVALON. I will be contacting Mr. Barczak regarding historic references about the theatre, in case he is interested in a goodly restoration, so if anyone wants to volunteer to help in that effort, possibly by forming a Friends of the Avalon, do let me know and I will inform him. Possibly he will be encouraged by outside interest. I once sent such a documented proposal to the current owner, but he did not even reply.

‘Theatricallyâ€\ yours, Jim ()
P.O. Box 14455, West Allis, WI 53214

JimRankin
JimRankin on February 2, 2005 at 10:58 am

A BREATH OF HOPE FOR THE AVALON?

According to this news item:
View link
Milwaukee’s long-closed AVALON theatre of 1929 “may” become a combination movie house/book store.

Let us hope that this is a breath of real hope for our beloved AVALON THEATRE. There have been many hopes dashed and failures noted in the past, we can only hope that it will be different this time. The owner has played disingenuously with potential buyers in the past, according to sources, but perhaps he is now realizing a combined purchasing power that may be able to meet his reportedly stiff price. The owner of the ROSEBUD cinema did approach Mr. Ellsworth to purchase, but the reported one million plus price was out of his reach, and that of most others. This is the reason that he is opening a block farther south in the old Kohl’s food store and will share that space with a new branch of Outpost Foods. We all wish him well there, I’m sure.

Several people have wondered why the people of Bay View don’t reach out and collectively buy the theatre. That sounds like a nice idea, but it requires sound business sense and experience to run it as a movie house in a day when few single screen cinemas succeed. No one with that experience has stepped forward to offer to run the place assuming it is bought by someone intent on runnint it as a movie house. The current owner, architect Craig Ellsworth, did try to change it to a live performance venue, providing that the city granted him a beer/liquor license, but that was refused 3 times already, partially due to the concerns of neighbors that it would become a hangout for ‘DODs’ (Drunk and Disorderlies, as the cops put it). Could a new owner get the license? Possibly, but that does not solve the parking question that filling the thousand plus seats would bring. Yes, people elsewhere are accustomed to walking a distance from their cars, but not so in Milw. For this reason, the neighborhood merchants must largely rely upon locals for patronage. Is there enough there to keep a movie house afloat? Let’s hope the new ROSEBUD SOUTH proves so.

For those who ask about the former WARNER (now the closed GRAND) downtown, the situation is that the Symphony cannot now afford to purchase and rehab it as needed. Marcus theatres has almost 20 years remaining on the lease which requires them to maintain it in good condition. The owners of the land under the theatre are keeping a close eye on the situation, and have shown the site to several prospects that would use it in an entertainment vein, but as a “Business Journal” article of July 1st, 1995 brought out after the then double cinemas closed, said, it is really too big for most groups, yet too small for other developments. It was an ideal size in 1931 when this beautiful movie palace was created, but times have changed, and even with two screens (and no parking) it could not pay its way. Marcus must pay about $30,000 a year in combined taxes, not including some heat and power, so it is not cheap to let it sit idle, but one wonders what will become of it years from now when they no longer pay those bills. This lesson is not lost on prospective buyers of the AVALON, since they can’t and don’t want to end up paying upkeep for a relic, no matter how attractive or nostalgic it may be. Our PABST, RIVERSIDE and ORIENTAL appear to be ‘saved,’ but in fact they also skid by on thin ice. Most people give words of encouragement to potential owners/operators of these former movie palaces, but will they also contribute their funds in the form of REGULAR patronage, or is it easier to stay home and pop in a DVD?

ErinNicole
ErinNicole on January 11, 2005 at 11:00 am

Thanks for the warning—there’s not much anyone can do if Mr. Ellsworth is opposed to it. I’m going to do my best to see if there’s any hope though! :)

JimRankin
JimRankin on January 11, 2005 at 8:42 am

This depends upon whom one asks. If you read the previous story about the new cinema to be built in Bay View, you will find toward the bottom the statement that owner Craig Ellsworth wants $2.5 million for the building, but others claim that he isn’t really interested in selling else he would price the building realistically. Others say that he is just stubborn and miffed that the city has repeatedly refused to grant a liquor/beer license to him and so he is deliberately trying to antagonize the neighbors. He has demolished the box office, and removed the marquee name sign, but beyond that I do not know what damages have been done inside, though the item about the removal of the organ, above, should give one some idea. Approach with caution.

ErinNicole
ErinNicole on January 11, 2005 at 7:40 am

I’m sorry for not knowing more about the situation, but is the Avalon still for sale? I’m gathering a group of theatre junkies who are greatly interesting in starting some fundraisers to save it, but I wasn’t sure of the current state of affairs. I’d appreciate any info—thanks!

DavidHurlbutt
DavidHurlbutt on December 17, 2004 at 2:46 pm

Wasn"t this proposed site of the new ROSEBUD once the site of Frosty’s Drive In. Frosty"s was moved to the corner of the lot next to the railroad tracks when the National Tea Store was built there. When the National closed Kohl’s took over and opened their store there. Sometime later the Frosty’s building was torn down for additonal parking.

JimRankin
JimRankin on December 17, 2004 at 10:17 am

Rosebudâ€\s success spawns sequel
Theater owner to open Bay View movie house
By TOM DAYKIN

Posted: Dec. 16, 2004

Milwaukeeâ€\s reviving Bay View area finally is getting a cinema, but it wonâ€\t be at the neighborhoodâ€\s former Avalon Theatre.
Theater Sequel in Bay View
Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
Patrons enter a midnight show at Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse, 6823 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, in 2002. Owner Jay Hollis is expanding his business with a new theater in Milwaukeeâ€\s Bay View area.

The Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse Bay View will open next summer in a former Kohlâ€\s supermarket, 2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., said Jay Hollis, who operates the original Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse, 6823 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa.

The Bay View Rosebud, like the Wauwatosa business, will feature first-run and art house films in a single-screen theater, furnished with tables, sofas and chairs, and offering a dining service with beer, wine, pizza and other foods.

Hollis said Thursday he signed a letter of intent to sublease 5,000 square feet from Outpost Natural Foods, which recently agreed to lease the 24,000-square-foot building. The building has been empty since August 2003, when Kohlâ€\s Food Stores Inc. closed its 23 area supermarkets after several years of declining sales.

Outpost plans to open an 8,000-square-foot store by next summer and will use additional space for its catering division. Outpost, which also operates stores at 100 E. Capitol Drive and at 7000 W. State St. in Wauwatosa, is subleasing the north part of the building to Hollis.

Outpost plans to begin its $2.1 million renovation in January, said Pam Mehnert, general manager. She said the Rosebud, which will show movies only at night, will be compatible with the natural foods store, which operates during the day.

Outpost also might provide some food for the Rosebudâ€\s dining service, Mehnert said.

Hollis, who today celebrates the fifth anniversary of the Wauwatosa Rosebud, has been considering a second location in Bay View for about two years.

The south side neighborhood has seen an influx of new homeowners, which has increased property values and attracted several new retailers along Kinnickinnic Ave.

“The demographics are perfect for Rosebud,” Hollis said.

Also, Bay Viewâ€\s only movie theater, the Avalon, closed in July 2000. Avalon owner Craig Ellsworth said it could no longer compete with modern, multi-screen cinemas.

Hollis said the Wauwatosa Rosebud began turning a profit its second year, thanks to the dining service, unusual furnishings and a fun atmosphere drawing customers from throughout the Milwaukee area.

Hollis said it would cost roughly $250,000 to create the Bay View Rosebud. He expects to finance the project mainly with cash generated by the Wauwatosa cinema and a bank loan.

Hollis originally hoped to buy and reopen the Avalon, but dropped that plan because it would have been too expensive. He said Ellsworth wanted $1.5 million for the building, which includes 19 apartments and street-level retail space, or $550,000 for just the theater portion. Hollis estimated it would cost an additional $500,000 to properly renovate the theater building.

Ellsworth declined to comment on his discussions with Hollis. He said he continues to market the 1,250-seat theater for conversion to office space.

The Bay View Rosebud will have 170 to 190 seats, about the size of the Wauwatosa theater.

The new theater will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood, said Carol Voss, a spokeswoman for the Bay View Neighborhood Association.

Still, Voss added, “It would have been nice if it could have been in the Avalon.”

The Avalon opened in 1929. It is known for its decorative facade, ornate ceiling that depicts twinkling stars and a Wurlitzer pipe organ.

The Common Council in March designated the Avalon as a historic structure. That designation protects the Avalon from demolition or exterior renovations, but wonâ€\t affect Ellsworthâ€\s plan to turn the theater space into offices. In June, the Avalon made the stateâ€\s Ten Most Endangered Properties list for 2004, compiled annually by the Madison-based Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation.

From the Dec. 17, 2004, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

AndrewWillenson
AndrewWillenson on October 29, 2004 at 5:35 pm

From the last posting, done by Jim Rankin (from a letter by Fred Wolfgram), it appears the Avalon is beginning to deteriorate. HOW SAD!

JimRankin
JimRankin on October 9, 2004 at 5:27 am

Here are the details of the sad fate of the AVALON’s organ which I received from the President of the Dairyland Theatre Organ Soc., the owner of the pipe organ:

Hi Jim

Unfortunately, it’s true. The organ has been removed from the theatre and put into storage. The theatre is not being maintained by the owner and he’s trying to rent it out as office space. There are many roof leaks with the organ chambers suffering much falling plaster from water damage. When some of the large wooden pipes were removed, they were found to be covered with mold and mildew from almost steady dampness. Worse yet, the facility has not been heated for several years and this doesn’t help preserve it. Recently vandals broke in and pried the doors to the organ chambers open. Either they weren’t interested with what they found or were planning to return to take metal pipes for salvage? That’s happened to pipe organs before. And they emptied every fire extinguisher they could find in the theatre over everything. It looked like it snowed! They also took the back of the console off but didn’t do any damage. DTOS then decided to remove the organ to protect it from both vandalism and the elements and it now resides in pieces in a heated warehouse in Racine until it can be returned to the Avalon, should that place be restored, or put into another facility where it can be enjoyed.

If you send me your address, I’ll send you a copy of our last newsletter, the Bartola, where you can read about it first hand and see some pictures. Thanks for your interest.

Fred Wolfgram