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The FALLS Theatre has been an iconic part of the River Falls downtown since it opened in 1927. Owner Michelle Maher said it’s an integral part of the Main Street economy. “I think in general, our community, people end up seeing more movies in a theatre than they would in most communities,” Maher said. “And in doing that, they bump into friends and neighbors that they haven’t seen and didn’t expect to see. They have an experience that they cannot necessarily anticipate because it isn’t like it’s in their living room.”
She said the theater gives people an excuse to get out and frequent other downtown businesses as well. “That has kept our main street healthy,” she said. “There’s other communities that have lost their main street theatres, that have noticed the decay of their main street communities.”
Not so in River Falls, Maher said. The City worked with the theatre to obtain a state grant, most of which will go toward helping the FALLS Theatre expand to add a second screen in the building next door to the theatre, adjacent to Mel’s Midtowner Bar. It used to house County Line Insurance. “We’re excited to be able to partner with a longterm business in town, a small family-owned business,” said City Administrator Scot Simpson. “I think it will help. It’s really a pillar of the downtown.”
The city received an $82,600 state grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Work is due to begin this month on the $640,000 project and should be completed in Summer, 2018. While the grant was awarded to the city, a substantial portion of the proceeds will go directly to the theatre for the expansion project.
Maher said the community has largely been supportive of the theatre, and mentioned some Facebook comments on a post the city made about the forthcoming second screen.
Deborah Huppert said “Love going to Falls Theatre so glad and proud of them!”
Cindy Pechacek Kusilek wrote, “Thank you all who were involved for all your hard work to keep this River Falls Treasure alive and flourishing.”
Jeanne Aamodt wrote, “So happy for you and River Falls Michelle, your dad is looking down on you smiling, Thanks Stan!”
Others expressed concerns.
“I just hope they don’t ruin the feel of the place,” wrote Bobbi Ombui. “I partly go BECAUSE it is historic. I think RF is a little lax in the preservation department, They ‘improve’ beyond recognition or destroy many of the cities treasures. If I want a cineplex I go to Hudson.”
Maher said she isn’t trying to turn the Falls Theatre into a big movieplex. “We’re in the business of maintaining a main street community theatre that continues to run with the philosophy of making it available for everybody at the lowest possible price,” Maher said. “We are not interested in changing that model significantly. We just want to stay relevant into the future.”
Maher is open to hearing suggestions from the community about what they’d like to see in their movie experience.
“We’re trying to stay open to listen to what our community wants because the theater is going to be more a part of this community through this process and dependent on our community in a way that I’ve never experienced as much of before.”
Maher feels a great connection to the theatre, which she said has a life of its own. “We are just its caretakers,” she said. “It provides an experience that you can’t get anywhere else and the space carries a kind of energy to depart from your daily life that feeds the soul for a moment.”
The Falls Theatre was founded by Maher’s father Stan “the Movie Man” McCulloch. “I think my dad passed it to me on a spiritual level, right before his death,” Maher said. “I don’t understand why it makes any logical sense why I’m willing to sacrifice as much as I do to be here and keep this theatre going. I love it. It feels alive to me. I protect it fiercely. I don’t want that to change. And I’ve got a son who’s interested … loves the movies … so it looks like there’s a future for the theatre. So I’m willing to invest into that, and everybody what I’ve talked to seems incredibly excited and supportive.”
Maher said the second screen will seat around 50. The box office will not change, Maher said. People will enter the new auditorium — which will also include new restrooms — the same way they always have. The new auditorium will have its own exit, however.
Maher said she’s just waiting for state approval on the finalization of the plans from the architect and contractor, Ross and Associates. Once that approval is given, construction can begin, Maher said.
She’s also considered the idea of an all-day showtime on Tuesdays, both to compete with other theatres' $5 Tuesdays and to better serve community groups. Showtimes will likely stay close to the standard 7 and 9 p.m. times; however, they might not always be exactly 7 and 9 p.m., as movies lengths tend to vary.
Maher said though the project is a huge commitment, she doesn’t feel too many nerves about it. “I think that’s because it seems like the universe wants it,” Maher said. “Our town wants it. I feel supported now by the state; it feels like it’s bigger than me.”
After the money given to the theatre, the city will use the remaining funds for projects such as resurfacing Heritage Park parking lot nearby the FALLS Theatre.
The word at the top is “Dahl’s”, for local builder Einar Dahl.
Opened March 12, 1927. From the CROWN Theatre feature in the Racine Journal Times, Friday, March 11, 1927.
The STATE Theatre in downtown Eau Claire is just off Farwell Street — one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city — and Barstow Street, which is considered the main road of Eau Claire’s downtown. Built for $315,000 by Finkelstein and Ruben, The STATE Theatre opened in January, 1926 with a vaudeville show and multiple musical acts. Several years afterward, the STATE started hosting movies and kept doing so until 1982. The STATE Theatre building was donated in 1984 to the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council so it could be restored and resume its original purpose of hosting performances.
It went on the real estate market a little more than a month ago, and a for-sale sign recently appeared on the theatre’s exterior, pasted between posters for acts coming to the theater for its final season. Dean Larsen of Acquisition Realty & Development says that he’s had three showings since he became agent for the property but has received no written offer yet. Larsen said one was thinking demolition and the other two were contemplating “remodeling” the STATE Theatre but didn’t specify for what use. He expects the building likely will attract local investors, who have familiarity with the downtown area and possibilities for the property. The State has offices on its second floor, Larsen said, and the feasibility of turning those into apartments or other uses hasn’t yet been explored.
The 1926 50,000-square-foot STATE Theatre building with its 1,098-seat theater, second-floor offices, a dance studio and art gallery, is listed for $450,000 and is being marketed as commercial property.
There doesn’t seem to be much local interest in preserving the historic theatre.
Ben Richgruber, executive director of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council which currently owns the STATE Theatre building, says the building is in good shape but the group has had issues through the years with the roof and heating system. When the Confluence Arts Center (under construction on Graham Avenue about a block from the STATE Theatre and scheduled to open this fall) was announced in May 2012, it was clear that the STATE Theatre would close because ECRAC wanted to be part of the new facility and abandon the STATE Theatre with its limitations for hosting large performances. The Confluence will include offices for local arts groups that currently are based out of the STATE Theatre.
Eau Claire’s economic development administrator Mike Schatz said the city briefly considered buying the STATE Theatre but opted against it because the private sector was showing interest in it. “From a location standpoint, it’s right in the middle of a lot of activity,” Schatz added, saying that downtown buildings with apartments on upper floors often sell fast because buyers see rental income in addition to what could be made through street-level business tenants. The State has offices on its second floor, Larsen said, and the feasibility of turning those into apartments or other uses hasn’t yet been explored.
Still, the STATE Theatre continues to host and book performances. Local productions of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “State Fair” are booked for this summer at the STATE Theatre. Richgruber said “We’ve still been going gangbusters over here. We’re going to use it until it’s done.”
Racine Journal Times, March 13, 1948: Gust Jahnke and son of Wauwatosa have purchased a tract of land in Abor (?) subdivision near the Shell filling station. They plan to erect a theater.
Racine Journal Times, January 6, 1971 – Waterford Lions Club Will Operate Theater ….
WATERFORD — A desire to establish a good family entertainment center was the motivation behind the Waterford Lions Club decision to purchase the community’s Ford Theatre, Harold Robinson, spokesman for the club said. “The community deserves a place where the entire family can go to see a movie without embarrassment,” he said. The purchase was completed in November, when the agreement was signed by the club and the Morbak Corp. of Waterford, former owners of the property. The theater was closed for two weeks before the Lions Club purchased it. The theater has been leased to Lawrence Heebsh of Waterford, who has connections with a film booking agency which specializes predominantly in family movies, Robinson said. Movies are shown now on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and Heebsh has plans to add Sunday matinees to the program beginning about Jan. 17, Robinson added. The building also will be used as a meeting place by the Waterford Leos Club, a young people’s group affiliated with the Lions Club, he added. The building is being renovated with this purpose in mind, he said.
Curtains close on Princess Theatre (Oct. 2, 2015) By Audrey Davis, For The Miami Student
Just a few days ago, the shelves at the Princess Theatre were still stocked with candy. A batch of popcorn, though stale and old, was still piled in the machine, ready to be eaten — even though the theatre had been closed for well over a year. Before the demolition began Monday, the historic Princess had been around for over a century. It was first opened Sept. 11, 1911 and was originally called the New Oxford Theatre. From its opening to its demolition this week, the theatre went through several ownerships and two additional name changes. It wasn’t until 1982 the theatre got the name it is known by today.
While it was called the Talawanda Theatre, Angela Provines, a Miami alumna (’75), recalls spending many evenings there. “Many professors and their families would attend movies there,” Provines said. “It was weird to see them out of the classroom and being ‘real people.’”
An ad for the New Oxford Theatre was featured in a 1938 edition of The Miami Student, promoting ticket prices at only 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults. Students used to be given discounted prices if they brought their college IDs. Provines said because of this, the theatre was usually packed, especially on Saturday nights.
The theatre had always been known for its cheap ticket prices, making it a great hangout spot for Oxford’s younger population, like first-year Phoebe Myers. Myers has lived in Oxford her whole life. She had been watching shows at the Princess Theatre for as long as she can remember. She recalls the day she was allowed to go to the theatre without her parents, when she was 11 years old — a monumental moment. The theatre, she said, was a large part of her childhood and teenage years. “Freshman year of high school, all of the English classes read the Hunger Games,” Myers said. “One day we all walked from the old high school to the Princess to watch the movie, and that was just a really great memory.”
Senior Jillian Runser also remembers watching the same movie at the theater. “My sophomore year we got free tickets to see the Hunger Games premiere there,” Runser said. “It was just a bunch of girls from my corridor freaking out about it, so it was a lot of fun.”
In the past few years, the theatre has closed and reopened several times. In 2014, not long after it had been renovated, the Princess caught fire from an overheated ice machine. Although the theatre was not open at the time and no one was hurt, it was shut down due to smoke damage and has remained closed since. “It was just a really good place to go if you wanted an alternative to going out to bars or just hang out with your friends and relax and forget about what was going on around you,” Runser said.
The theater has been missed in the town since its indefinite closing. Myers said younger kids, especially, have lost something that gave them a sense of freedom.
“It was part of the town’s identity,” Myers said. “It just fit with Oxford.”
Kenosha closes the curtain on historic theater
(DAILY REPORTER, August 11, 2008)
Kenosha is tearing down one of its historic movie houses over the objections of the building’s owners. Kathryn Hanneman and John Gee, owners of the Roosevelt Theatre since 2000, pleaded with city officials to spare the building. They want to turn the movie house into a studio for shooting commercials and television pilots. But after eight years, they’ve made no progress. Worse, say city officials, the owners let the building deteriorate to a condition beyond repair. “It’s a building that is in a serious state if disrepair,” said Jim Schultz, Kenosha’s director of Neighborhood Services and Inspections. “It’s a public nuisance and a public safety issue.”
But Hanneman said the city is rushing to destroy a historic property. She claims the building is made of concrete and steel girders thicker than skyscrapers, and could easily stand for years to come. “I think it speaks to their lack of vision,” Hanneman said. “Projects like this are done all of the time. They really don’t have any reason to bring it down.”
The single-screen Roosevelt Theatre, the longest continuously screening theater in Kenosha, opened Christmas Day in 1927 and showed movies for 55 years. It was designed by architect Einar Dahl and revised by architect Charles Augustine. Capacity was originally 1,000 seats but was reduced to 764 seats in the 1970s.
Along with the movie theater, there was a bowling alley in the basement. The interior of the building is all but gone, Schultz said. The bowling alley was removed years ago, and the original organ was dismantled in the 1950s to make room for air conditioning.
The Kenosha City Council voted 14-1 on Aug. 4 to raze the building. The council approved a $37,000 contract with Champion Environmental Services Inc., Gilberts, Ill., to remove asbestos from the theater before demolition. Asbestos removal is scheduled to being in two weeks. Demolition would begin in six weeks.
Hanneman and Gee owe $150,000 in liens and back taxes on the property. They said they do not have the money to make even basic repairs to the theater. They were working with an anonymous donor to receive $500,000 for the theater, but the money was tied up in estate proceedings, Hanneman said.
Gee, an entertainment promoter from Milwaukee, said Kenosha overestimated how much it would cost to “button up” the building until money is found for restoration. His plan was to either fix the exterior and sell the theater to a developer or create a recording and television studio.
But that plan received little support from city officials, said Gee, noting that public money was available to help the Kenosha Theatre and the Rhode Opera House in the city’s downtown. When he asked for city support for the Roosevelt Theatre, he was turned away.
“We wanted a property that supports itself, not one that’s supported by the city,” he said, adding that, in retrospect, he and Hanneman didn’t have the experience needed to complete the project. “That was the weakness in our plan. We didn’t have a real estate professional in our group.”
Schultz said the city does not support tearing down historic buildings. But in the case of the Roosevelt Theatre, he said, restoration would cost more than $1 million.
“Really there’s no choice in the matter,” he said. “The owner doesn’t have the resources to make the minimum necessary repairs.”
The 12,500 square-foot theater is in central Kenosha about a mile from the city’s downtown, which includes two historic theaters, one in use and the other undergoing a $24 million restoration. The Roosevelt has not been used as a theater for more than 20 years. There are no plans to redevelop the site, Schultz said.
The GATEWAY Theatre’s 90th Anniversary last Friday passed without a word of observance from the current occupants … not a good sign, in my opinion.
It’s official. Today the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra revealed it has acquired the Warner Grand theatre building for its new performance center to open in fall of 2020, saying it’ll allow “better long-term financial, operational and creative success.” The MSO has raised $93.5 million of a $120 million campaign to buy, design and renovate the theatre and fund an endowment for the orchestra. Steve and Greg Marcus and The Marcus Corporation donated their ownership of the Warner Grand Theatre to the campaign, the State of Wisconsin granted over $8 million in historic tax credits, and it just received conditional approval for federal historic tax credits.
Citing improving attendance and thanking donors, president/executive director of the MSO Mark Niehaus said “Closing on the acquisition of the Warner Grand Theater is a significant step in both our artistic and financial future.” Owning its venue and being able to rent space within is expected to increase annual revenue by as much as 60 percent and allow easier bookings of guest performers and conductors who usually require lengthy advance notice.
Besides restoration, there’ll be community education spaces, parking options, curbside dropoff/pickup options and onsite catering.
Restoring and adapting the Warner Grand Theatre was said to be 50 to 66 percent less expensive than comparable new construction venue projects across the country.
The Des Plaines City Council moved on Monday, December 18, 2017 to take over the DES PLAINES Theatre through eminent domain by voting 7-1 to begin condemnation proceedings on the 1925 Art Deco-style theatre. Dhitu Bhagwakar bought the theatre in 2003 and showed a mix of Bollywood and other movies before getting shut down due to code violations in 2014.
Only Alderman Dick Sayyad voted against the measure intended to revitalize the city’s downtown but taxpayers could be on the hook in the long term. The theatre acquisition project was a longtime goal of Mayor Matt Bogusz, who had pursued a public-private partnership with Rivers Casino to buy and maintain the theatre. Last August the council approved a non-binding agreement with the casino under which Rivers would kick in up to $2 million to buy and renovate the property plus annual payments of $50,000 to keep it running.
Alderman Malcolm Chester, 6th Ward, opposed Bogusz’s plan when he was running for mayor, but he said a majority of residents he spoke to during the campaign supported the idea. He also cited the partnership with the casino as the key factor in changing his decision.
“They’re basically sharing our risk in this process, which makes it much more viable from my point of view,” Chester said. “This is a risk and I understand that, but Rivers participation reduces that risk enough for me to support it.”
Alderman Carla Brookman, 5th Ward, agreed that the partnership with the casino was a major factor. “We will have control of the property, and that’s most important,” she said. “It gives us the latitude to do a lot of things.”
Resident Ronald Moore said he believed the council had hidden the purchase on the consent agenda, mentioning it only by its street address in the notice of the meeting. He warned against what he suggested would be a costly venture over the long term and recommended a referendum.
“Let the citizens decide whether the city should spend $2 million and who knows, after five years, how much more the city will spend in tax money to keep this thing running,” he said.
Ron Onesti, owner of the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles had shown interest in operating the theatre if Des Plaines manages to acquire it.
The move to begin eminent domain proceedings follow several months of negotiations between the city and owner of the theatre. Bogusz told the Des Plaines Journal the city’s appraised value of the property is between $400,000 and $500,000 but owner Bhagwakar, who purchased the building in 2003 for $920,000 from a bank that wanted to tear down the structure and build a drive-through, has said his appraised value is $2.3 million. He had said he was open to selling the property but described the city’s offer of $450,000 as “low ball,” saying there was “no way” he could accept such an offer, the Daily Herald reported.
Bogusz – who has previously described Bhagwaker as a “bad actor” – told the Journal the city’s appraisal takes into account the cost of bringing the theater back into code and is a more accurate market value. He said a lawsuit to take over the property would be filed as soon as possible, calling it “a long time coming.” According to Cook County Assessor records, Bhagwakar repeatedly appealed down the assessed value of the property from $381,251 in 2008 to about $80,000 in 2011 and every subsequent year. It was closed in January 2014 when he failed to meet the city’s deadline to fix various building code issues, including a sprinkler system near the stage, bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a fire-resistant curtain, the Daily Herald reported. Bhagwakar also reportedly turned down takeover offers from the theatre’s former general manager and a local trucking company owner who said he offered him a blank check to buy the theater.
(Racine Journal News) Crystal Theatre Opens Tonight – Tonight will see the first performances of the De Vault Stock Company at the new Crystal theatre, formerly the College Avenue Orpheum. There will be two performances, one at seven and the other nine o'clock. “The Yankee Doodle Boy” will be the attraction until Thursday, when will be billed Clyde Fitch’s great success “The Girl and the Chauffeur.” This idea of a permanently located stock company is new to Kacine, but the promoters feel it is going to be an unqualified success.
Racine Journal Times, July 9, 1937) – Experienced Showman Cornel to Racine to Operate Rex Theater …
The Rex theater, which will open within the next 10 days with vaudeville presentations and talking pictures will be guided by an experienced hand. A. J. Cooper, president and managing director of the Cooper’s Theaters Inc., will be in charge of the new Rex theater. Building his first theater in a small Ohio town in 1915, he later established a circuit of theaters in Wisconsin. Subsequently he organized a chain of theatres in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and then went to New York city, where he opened and operated the New York Hippodrome theater. On his chain of theaters the Riverside theater in Milwaukee is still running under his original policy. Mr. Cooper places a great deal of faith in Racine.
(February 7, 1972)– Earl Warner, 78, died Sunday morning at the Sunset Rest Home, Fairchild, where he had been a resident for the past two months. Mr. Warner was born May 21, 1393 in the Town of Bridge Creek and married the former Jean Johnson in 1921. The couple lived their entire life in Augusta, where he had owned and operated the Augusta Theater for more than 35 years. He is survived by three sons, Gary, Downingstown, Pa.; William and Robert, both of Augusta; two daughters, Mrs. William Metz Jr., Augusta, Mrs. Jack Smith, Havre, Mont.; a sister, Mrs. Earl Newhouse, Onalaska; 22 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Anderson Funeral Home here with the Rev. Ralph Walker officiating. Burial will be in West Lawn Cemetery.
Screen Lives Again in Augusta Theater
October 10, 1962 — AUGUSTA (Special) — While movie heroes dance their shadowy ritual across the movies screen here a true life drama is being enacted at the box office.
A month ago Richard L. (Chips) Flodin, 22 , of 1611 Western Avenue, Eau Claire, and his wife, re-opened the August theater which had been silent and dark for two years.
Many folks know Flodin as an Eau Claire radio personality, who conducted a late-evening record show, worked at the television studio as a film director and moved to Marshfield as a radio announcer after marrying Maxine Knowlton in September, 1961.
Some folks know that Flodin, who has a lifelong interest in the entertainment world in general and the movie world in particular, launched his business here a month ago on a shoestring after being out of work for months.
Few know he had to leave his radio announcing post, when failing eyesight canceled out his ability to read news stories or other announcements. He has been in hospitals twice since then in efforts. so far futile, to push back the curtain of darkness that is gradually closing in.
At best Flodin can make out the shape and form of large objects. At worst he can just distinguish between light and darkness.
“It seems like there is always a way, if you can just find it.”, he says. He doesn’t like to talk about his problems. He would rather talk about his Eau Claire friends who tipped him off to the possibility of reopening the theater here: who helped himself and his wife clean up, paint and partially remodel the main street building for the event; and the Augusta businessmen who have supported his effort. He sells them some advertising on the screen and reports that business support has represented the difference between success and failure during the first weeks.
He has found that although business is good “many people have gotten out of the movie habit.” He hopes that by presenting the best pictures his budget will allow he can recapture some interest.
He also praised the August young people, Jerry Setzer, Julie Neldon and Jim Steadman, who work at the theater for showings: one on Thursday, two on Friday and Saturday nights, matinees on Saturday and Sunday, and the Sunday night performance.
So far his wife, who is 19, has been his principle helper, caring for books, driving his car and using her eyes for him. She will have added duties soon when their first child is born. Flodin is hoping to find a place here where he can reasonably park their trailer close to the theater so he can walk back and forth alone.
“I was pretty busted up,” he says, recalling the time when he first learned his eye ailment is serious and could be permanent. But his face lights up as he describes how he is trying to improve the theater sound system and the bright plans he has for the future if his venture here succeeds. He will know better when the next two months of his three-month trial period are complete.
Built as the BUECHNER Theatre.
THE SHEBOYGAN PRESS, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1931 – Picture And Bomb Climax Simultaneous In Chicago ——————– During these weeks, 16 bombs have been hurled, 14 of them at theatres involved in the fight. Until last night, all were exploded outside the show houses. The 14th and 15th, both thrown yesterday, were hurled at theatres not involved. Owners said they must have been “errors.” Besides Mooney, the other seriously hurt last night were Edward Foy, city fireman, and Edward Schaeffer. Several women wera slightly hurt. The war between owners and operators started when the owners rebelled against ,a union rule requiring two operators in every theatre. When efforts to compromise failed, the owners locked out the operators and imported non-union men from New York to replace them. The bombings began, continuing since at the rate of about one a day. Thomas Maloy, under indictment on conspiracy charges and accused of being a racketeer, is head of the union involved in the controversy.
Chicago (UP) The theatre bomb war and the moving picture “Dancing Dynamite” reached their climaxes at the same time last night in the Colony theatre on the southwest side. Just as the climax of the picture came, flames shot upward from the center of the audience of about 800 persons. Two other patrons, one a fireman off duty, tackled the fleeing man and beat out the flames. All three were seriously burned. The man who fled was Peter Mooney, 30, a former convict. Police were convinced he carried a sulphur bomb into the theatre, intending to terrorize patrons by tossing it among them, but that he blundered and the bomb exploded in his lap. Officers said the incident undoubtedly would prove the climax of the controversy which has been waged for weeks between owners of 104 independent theatres and the union operators whom they locked out.
(Racine Journal Times, October 8, 2017) – The Uptown Racine neighborhood has struggled to maintain business, but a new proposal in the 2018 capital improvement plan might breathe some life into the neighborhood. The proposal is looking to turn the old Uptown theater into a performing arts center and it asks for $75,000 to perform a feasibility study and $50,000 to perform market analysis in 2019. That money would get taken out of the intergovernmental revenue sharing fund. The proposal also included $10 million to be used in 2021 for property purchase and construction. The city would use $5 million of the TID bond and $5 million from private development to fund the project.
Racine City Administrator Jim Palenick said it could make a huge difference in the area if the theater on the 1400 block of Washington Avenue was revitalized. “If the city can come forward with a very strong start to this project, can the private sector make this happen,” adding the city has had discussions with people in Uptown and thinks that this project can “create some vision and get something done on a pretty solid plan that’s been out there for a while.”
Sandy Weidner, mayoral candidate, said the plan “doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me at all, but I’d like to know more about it. I do think it would be a good thing, but I would need to hear more from the director of city development on what the expectation is from the feasibility study and market analysis. I’d also like to know if we’d done one in the past.” Weidner said on taking the money out of the intergovernmental revenue sharing fund: “that’s going to depend on the health of that particular fund to know if we could take $125,000 out of there. There’s a lot of other commitments being proposed to come out of the intergovernmental fund.”
State Rep. Cory Mason, mayoral candidate, also echoed the same sentiments about wanting to know more about the project. “I think Uptown needs something transformative to help bring it back … revitalizing Uptown has been a priority for the city and should be a priority for the next mayor,” Mason said. “Whether or not this project is the best way to revitalize Uptown is still unclear to me… I’d like to hear what the community has to say about it.”
Mason said it’s very early in the process for this project and would like to have more input from different members of the community. “I think a mistake that was made with the arena was there wasn’t enough done to gauge community support for the project,” Mason said. “For me the first thing I want to do is gauge not just the feasibility of a project like that, but also the community support for it.”
Yesenia Alashi, manager at Furniture Warehouse, 1510 Washington Ave., said anything new to the area would be an improvement. “This area is pretty dead now … a lot of stores have closed down or they don’t have a lot going on in this uptown area. It would be nice to get something newer something fresh in this area. It might boost this area a little bit more, especially a theater.”
LOCAL “LITTLE THEATRE” TO SHOW NOVEL FILMS (Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, December 9, 1938)
The Little Theatre, a motion picture playhouse dedicated to the showing of outstanding film attractions made in this country, England and the European continent, opened here this week on N. Third street, just south of Wisconsin avenue. Like its counterparts the country over, the Little Theatre, established in the former Garden Theatre, will show only single features with the balance of the program composed of specially selected short subjects and latest news releases.
Historic West Bend Theatre, Inc. purchased the 88-year-old WEST BEND Theatre this week for $250,000 from Ascendant Holdings LLC. HWBT has launched a campaign with the goal of raising $1.5 million to $3 million to renovate the theater next year.
John Torinus, the group’s spokesperson and chairman of Serigraph Inc. said plans to gut all but the building’s facade were met with opposition from the West Bend community. “The town sort of rose up and said, ‘No, you can’t take down the theater — that’s where I had my first date. That’s where I had my first kiss. It really was palpable.”
Ascendant Holdings, LLC bought the building in 2012 for $100,000, according to state records. Its founder Matt Prescott, a West Bend native, stabilized the property and has readied it for reuse, Torinus said.
Torinus said HWBT envisions the restored theatre hosting showings of classic movies, matinee showings for children, musical performances, comedy acts, corporate events and weddings. “It will be a community, all-purpose facility,” he said. HWBT has brought on Scott Georgeson, an architect whose portfolio includes restoration work on the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Skylight Opera Theater and Schauer Arts & Activity Center in Hartford.
Torinus said HWBT is raising money through the rest of 2017 with construction anticipated to begin in early 2018
and a goal to have it completed in 2018, he said. “So far we’ve had nothing but good reception from the community and potential donors,” he said.
First-run features are ending at The Marcus Corp.’s SHOWTIME Franklin theater. Instead, it will screen movies when they become available for $2.50. On Tuesday nights, admission will be $1.50. The concessions at the Franklin theater will not be impacted by the change. “With a number of properties in the vicinity, Marcus Theatres is uniquely positioned to offer a variety of choices for guests,” said Rolando Rodriguez, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Marcus Theatres.
Milwaukee Film to operate Oriental Theatre; Fundraising $10 million to revitalize 90-year-old facility (by Lauren Anderson, BizTimes, June 19, 2017)
Milwaukee Film, the organizer of the city’s annual film festival, has entered into a 31-year lease to operate the Oriental Theatre and announced plans to make upgrades to the historic facility. The nonprofit organization is fundraising $10 million to revitalize the 1927 theater with the goal of “creating a superior customer experience and making the Oriental Theatre a state of the art historic cinema,” according to a Milwaukee Film news release.
The Oriental Theatre, located on Milwaukee’s east side, opened in 1927. The theater, located on Milwaukee’s East Side at 2230 N. Farwell Ave., is currently operated by Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres. When it assumes operation of the theater in July 2018, Milwaukee Film plans to run a year-round, nonprofit cinema.
“The Oriental Theatre is a treasure. I have visited hundreds of cinemas worldwide and the Oriental Theatre is my favorite. It is magical to see 1,000 of our members fill the main house at our monthly screenings,” said Jonathan Jackson, artistic and executive director of Milwaukee Film. “Our nine-year-old organization securing long-term control of this cinema is a momentous occasion. We have cemented our permanence in Milwaukee and intend to greatly expand our cultural, economic, and educational impact on our community.”
The organization has secured $3 million of its $10 million fundraising goal. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who co-founded Milwaukee Film, made a personal contribution of $2 million.
“From day one, every person involved in Milwaukee Film – from staff, to volunteers, to the board, to our dedicated 3,600 members – has been driven by the goal of not simply creating a film festival, but creating one of the best and biggest film festivals in the world,” Abele said. “This announcement brings us closer to that goal. It isn’t the culmination or an end point, it’s the start of the next chapter.”
The Herzfeld Foundation has also committed $1 million to the initiative.
Designs haven’t yet been completed, but the organization is “committed to maintaining the existing aesthetics and character of this iconic Milwaukee building,” according to the release.
Kenosha’s Cinemark Tinseltown USA movie theatre has been sold to a New Jersey-based real estate investment group for $8.4 million, according to state records.
Chambers Street Properties purchased the 14-screen theatre at 7101 70th Court from SP Theater LLC of Chicago.
Cinemark operates 525 theatres in 41 states, Brazil, Argentina and 13 other Latin American countries. This is the only Cinemark theater in Wisconsin.
Chambers Street Properties merged with Gramercy Property Trust, Inc. in 2015 creating the largest industrial and office net lease REIT at the time with a value of $5.7 billion.
Visitors must sign a waiver acknowledging that the theatre has been vacant for two decades. There’s a scar on the edge of the balcony, an effort to duplex the auditorium to produce more income in the 1990s, but the Warner is up for rebirth as the home of the Milwaukee Symphony. The stagehouse will have to be extended beyond the current rear wall so it’s large enough to fit the whole orchestra, and its management is leading a bid to renovate the Warner Grand to become the symphony’s new home. The task is to raise $120 million to make the move a reality. So far, the MSO has raised $76 million and says over 50 donors have given substantial gifts to help it move into the Warner Grand to help save an historic gem that likely would be lost otherwise.
The Milwaukee Symphony does about 135 performances per 40-week season and now offers themed performances of music from popular movies like “Harry Potter” and “La La Land” in order to attract new audiences, and its vision with the Warner Grand Theatre is to make going to the symphony an experience from the moment someone walks in the door, the original intent behind going to a movie palace.
The MSO is far from the first orchestra to move into a refurbished movie palace downtown. They’re regularly retrofitted to be symphony halls and the idea of the MSO moving to the Warner Grand had existed for some time. In 2001 the MSO conducted a highly successful acoustical test in the Warner Grand. Being much deeper than it is wide, the “shoebox” shape is better for orchestra acoustics, and the very high balcony is good because the sound doesn’t get trapped under the balcony. The decorations deflect sounds in good ways, though Rapp and Rapp didn’t build any of it for acoustical reasons. But in 2001 there wasn’t an appetite for a move because an addition was being built at the Milwaukee Art Museum, there was too much traffic to expand on North Second Street because it was a major artery, and the MSO’s need wasn’t as great because there were no Broadway shows at its then-home during its season.
Now, with the architecture firm Kahler Slater, the MSO plans to bump the back wall of the L-shaped theater into North Second Street to create a larger stage that can be seen from all areas of the theatre, to extend the east end with an addition replacing replace the building next door, and to enlarge the lobby to hold 1,700 people before and after performances. There’ll be new seating for a 1,750-person capacity, first-floor lavatories and elevators, and a second-floor gathering space for revenue-generating private events.
The City has donated a $750,000 grant and street-reconstruction assistance for moving the rear wall while retaining its historic and structural integrity. Initial approvals are in from the State of Wisconsin and the National Parks Service for historic preservation tax credits which will cover 40 percent of the cost of the historic restoration of the Warner Grand. The project is expected to cost the MSO about $75 million. If fundraising goes as planned, construction will begin in Autumn of 2017 and the MSO will be doing concerts in the born-again Warner Grand Theatre by Autumn of 2019.