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On March 9, 2012, the National Response Team (NRT) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with agents from the ATF St. Paul Field Division and State of Wisconsin-Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation-State Fire Marshal’s Office completed the investigation into the cause of fire at the Abby Theatre, 216 N. 1st St., Abbotsford, Wis. One firefighter was killed and four injured during fire suppression efforts.
The cause of the fire was ruled to be accidental, announced Wisconsin State Fire Marshal Director Tina R. Virgil and John Schmidt, Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC), St. Paul Field Division. Investigators said the fire started in the lobby area of the theatre and was accidental in nature.
Schmidt said “Over the past six days investigators have taken countless photographs, inspected and examined artifacts recovered from the scene and conducted more than 60 interviews. The information developed was reviewed and analyzed to assist in determining the cause of the fire.”
On that Sunday at approximately 12:16 p.m., the Abbotsford Fire Department (AFD) received a call of a report of fire at the Abby Theatre. Abbotsford immediately requested mutual aid from the Colby, Owen-Withee-Curtis and Dorchester Fire Departments. Three Colby firefighters inside the theatre suppressing the fire became trapped following a partial roof collapse. Two firefighters were rescued and the third firefighter was recovered and subsequently died.
Due to the loss of life and injuries to the firefighters, the Abbotsford Fire Department requested assistance from the Wisconsin DOJ-DCI-State Fire Marshal’s Office and the ATF NRT. The investigators worked together as a team over the course of the investigation to determine the origin and cause of the fire. Damage estimates: approximately $300,000.
ATF’s NRT personnel from across the country responded to the scene to work alongside state and local investigators, including a canine team, certified fire investigators, forensic chemist, electrical and fire protection engineers, and additional specialists, the 5th that fiscal year and the 726th since the team was created. http://www.atf.gov.
(Information courtesy Special Agent Robert Schmidt, PIO-ATF –(651) 726-0316)
It currently houses a clinic. The address is 104 East Market Street, McLeansboro, Illinois 62859.
The Harnois Theatre, Missoula’s premier opera house, was designed for Charles Harnois by architect A.J. Gibson with the interior décor completed by the Twin City Scenic Studio. There were three floors with nine exits and a 58-foot wide, 35-foot deep and 65-foot high stage. Shortly after it opened, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Jack Jones of the IWW (the “Wobblies”) rented the Harnois' basement for rallies. Charles Harnois sold the Harnois Theatre in 1914, it was renamed the Missoula Theatre, and at some time between 1922 and 1925 the name was changed to the Liberty Theatre. By 1929, the Liberty was listed as a “Hanson-Simons Co.” property. By 1932, the Fox interests became involved with the Liberty and the Wilma and Rialto as well. At some point between 1938 and 1941, the Liberty Theatre closed, and by 1943, the building was listed as the Liberty Bowling Center in the city directory and to Liberty Lanes in the 1950s. When Liberty Lanes moved to another location in the 1960s, the building was razed for a parking lot. The remains of the brick eastern wall of the theatre are still visible on the east side of the parking lot at 211 E. Main.
April 29, 2010.
Illinois Institute of Technology photo.
I’ve posted a photo of an early theatre at 804 Main Street within the 1903 Schuchart Building in Ashton.
Anonymous comment, July 21, 2007: “I remember a very funny production a couple of years ago where each time a train would go by the entire cast would stop and yell “TRAIN”!! It is missed, even by newcomers like me.”
Linda Brassfield, July 21, 2007: “My memories of the TIME Theater are inextricably associated with my family. Built in 1946, my grandparents (Doug & Merle Ingalls) had assumed ownership by the time I was born (or shortly thereafter) so it was a huge part of my life. My grandparents moved into the tiny upstairs apartment and provided many a meal to me and my family, especially summertime lunches when my mother was working. There were also whole family events — like Christmas which we celebrated in the lobby. As kids, my brother, my cousins, and I enjoyed helping clean the theater after the show. It seemed such fun to pop the seats back up. We also threw crushed popcorn boxes and other debris into the cans that were pulled down the aisles and, when we were older, got to sweep the popcorn kernels out into the aisles where my grandfather scooped them up by running a snow shovel up the aisle. The popcorn was the best ever. It was popped in what we called ‘grease’ – actually lard, I think, which came in 5 gallon bright yellow cans. These cans along with bags of corn were kept on the landing up a small flight of stairs to the left (east) exit.
“I probably saw every movie ever shown there – at least through 1965 -and many of them more than once, though sometimes I’d just sit outside the east exit and listen with a friend. After my grandparents, my parents ran the theater along with my aunt and uncle and the family tradition continued until they sold it in the ‘70s. I was delighted when, after many years, the theater was reborn as the Hovde-Allen Theater, home to the Lake Pepin Players which provided the community with many fine live performances. I feel a great sadness at the loss of this community landmark and regret the manner in which we lost it, but I know that many, many people will continue to tell theater stories about it for a long, long time.”
Mary Seymour, August 1, 2007: “Grandma Thompson always bought me my favorite birthday present as a child – A WHOLE BUNCH OF TICKETS TO THE THEATER! During the Christmas season, when Santa came to give rides and candy, Santa also gave the wonderful popcorn from the theater. Better yet, the movie that was shown on that day for the children was not a movie at all. IT WAS ALL CARTOONS, AND I THINK IT WAS FREE. My favorite movies as a child were the scary movies like “The Fall of the House of Usher” or “The Body Snatchers”. For me, the scariest one was “The Sea Creature”. Just before the creature would come out of the water, you could hear the waves but not see the water. In those days, we lived on Front Street (k/n/a First Street), and I had to walk home alone. I would cut through Steve Breitung’s back yard, which had a lot of trees and no neighbors except us. I could hear the waves but could not see the water. I still think of that movie when I can hear the waves late at night.”
Kitty Latane: “I wrote an article about the theater which appeared in the ‘Notes from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society,’ and a more recent version in the “Courier-Wedge.” Several women have commented to me that their first dates with their husbands had been at the Time Theater.”
This photo was taken 61 years after the LINCOLN became a church and faces away from the stage.
April 19, 1952: Purchase of the former Lincoln Theater, 6923 14th Ave., by the Lake Shore Tabernacle was announced by the Rev. O.F. Broker.
Highland Park Theater up for sale
The City of Highland Park won’t help to preserve the Highland Park Theatre and is offering the theatre for sale without restrictions and may throw in an adjoining parking lot to sweeten the deal. Monday the city learned that the non-profit Alcyon Foundation can’t raise the capital needed to restore and reopen the theatre for live performances, film festivals and private events.
Mayor Nancy Rotering told reporters after a closed session “The city has exhausted numerous efforts to redevelop the property in a way that meets the goals and desires of the community, reduces the financial burden placed on residents, and complements the business community.”
There was a two-year effort to preserve the theatre, and the city was dealing with a developer on a combined condo, retail and theatre, but the agreement lapsed last February over cost concerns.
The city bought the struggling theatre for $2.1 million in 2009 in part for concerns about preservation and for the possibility for larger redevelopments. It abruptly closed in summer of 2012 after code violations came to light. It’s zoned for commercial use and has been divided into four theatres ranging from 130 to 410 seats. The city invited anyone interested, or with questions about the council’s action, to call the city manager’s office at 847-926-1000.
The Valley Square 6 theatre closed in mid-December of 2013 following the failure of Carmike Cinemas and the Valley View Mall to agree on terms of the lease renewal, according to Jeff Odom, general manager at the Valley View Mall. Last summer’s remodeling projects there including the installation of new high-back seats with cup holders in all six auditoriums plus digital concession signs.
The VS6 employed Manager Jackie Speropulos and nine regular workers, two seasonal workers and custodians.
Mall officials say they were searching for a new lessee and hoped to make an announcement soon.
Carmike gift card holders could receive refunds by calling the corporate headquarters in Columbus, GA at 706-576-3400.
Local photographer John Hartman, a member of the Fox group board, put two panoramic photos of the interior of the theater as it exists on display next to the theater entrance in downtown Stevens Point. The photos show the green and red seats and walls that decorate the theater and the current condition of the ceiling and floors.
January 20, 2014: Members of the Fox on Main committee have preliminary results to a study that found the theater is in better shape than many had originally thought. A structural study of the historic Fox theater on Main Street exceeded expectations of both Fox board president Greg Wright and members of the Minneapolis-based structural engineering firm Meyer Borgman Johnson, who conducted the study.
Wright said although the structural study that started in November isn’t completed yet, initial results are that the theater, which closed its doors in 1986, is in better shape than anyone anticipated.
“When the structural engineer came here, his initial investigations implied that the building was well taken care of,” Wright said. “The Sanders family … although (the theater) hasn’t been used for over 30 years … did a good job of taking care of the building so that it is not like a building that’s been vacant for 30 years should be.”
In August, the title to the theater transferred from the theater’s most recent owners, the Sanders family, which had owned the theater when it closed, to the newly created Fox on Main LLC, giving city leaders and downtown business owners hope that the theater is one step closer to returning to its former glory.
Wright said the theater still needs substantial rehabilitation before anything can be done with the building. The Fox group was given $5,000 from the city of Stevens Point in November for the structural study of the over 100-year-old building and has started raising money it plans to use to get the theater open for business.
Local photographer John Hartman, who also is a member of the Fox group board, recently put two panoramic photos of the interior of the theater as it exists on display next to the theater entrance in downtown Stevens Point. The photos show the green and red seats and walls that decorate the theater and the current condition of the ceiling and floors.
“Chances are, if you are under 40, you’ve never seen the inside of the Fox,” Hartman said. “These photographs are the first views the public has seen in over a quarter century, and hopefully will become part of the storied history of the Fox as this project moves forward.”
Wright said the group also is looking into ways to get the community involved as the structural study comes to a close.
“We’re in the process of trying to create some community forums both with specific targeted members of the community, like the arts groups in the community, and then some open forums with those who have an interest in giving input,” he said.
The group recently adopted an action plan to begin studying how the theater could be used and function as a business. The group also is looking for volunteers and someone interested in becoming a board member as it works toward opening the theater.
The See-More Theatre building was constructed in the World War I period by a Mr. Martin. It immediately became the community’s center for film entertainment and other community functions including school functions, as they lacked facilities for extra-curricular activities; students would haul a piano from the school to the See-More Theater stage. Talent shows and touring entertainers shared the stage with films and high school programs. Charles Winninger of Wausau and his family brought their plays to the See-More periodically. Minstrel shows were always popular and Everett McBain frequently was the interlocutor.
When the See-More was purchased by Charles Warwick, the manager was Joseph Decker and the projectionist was Ray Decker, assisted by the young Marvin Babbitt who later became a county board vice-chairman. Other owners included Frank Lubinski, Arwin Otto, Frank Ebert and Otto Settele. Ebert extensively remodeled the theater and installed a wide screen. Settele continued to book first-run features but was forced to curtail screenings in the See-More’s later years due to the influence of television. He and Mrs. Settele also owned the theatre in Clintonville.
The community hall was a center for the high school’s basketball team. There were dances, and forensics were popular with the school administration. Eventually the Community Players took over the See-More for rehearsals, and discovered that the titles of plays and names of cast members were written on backstage walls, telling a story of many high school productions there. Many were faded but recalled school plays dating to 1929 including “Honor Bright”, “A Friend in Court”, “Mystery of Third Gables,” “Shirt Sleeves”, “Unexpected Debut”, “A Prince in Rags”, and “Dulcy”.
The Community Players constructed a track on which the theatre’s wide screen could be moved to the stage wall while a play was in progress. Later the stage set could be moved back as the screen was rolled to the front. Dressing rooms were below a portion of the stage; lighting was often borrowed from the high school.
REEDSBURG – Elmer V. Krueger, age 92, of Reedsburg, died on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2005, in his home. He was born July 17, 1913, in Princeton, Wis., the son of Emil and Pauline (Radtke) Krueger. Elmer was a 1933 graduate of Princeton High School. He then farmed the family farm for 25 years until becoming involved in the theater business. He will be remembered for showing free outdoor movies for many years. Elmer operated movie theaters in Princeton, Muscoda, Viroqua, Edgerton, Plainfield and Reedsburg. He operated the Badger Theatre in Reedsburg from November 1960 until his retirement in 2000. Elmer was always willing to reach out and help others whenever possible. He will also be remembered as a Christian mentor and friend to many. He was also the author of his trilogy: “Timeless Treasures,” “Endless Echoes,” and “Eternal Embers”, and was a faithful member of Faith Lutheran Church in Reedsburg.
The Riviera Theatre opened one month after the Rivoli Theatre, and both were designed by the La Crosse architectural firm of Parkinson & Dockendorff with interiors designed by Odin Oyen of La Crosse. The Riviera was managed by the Cooper Amusement Company.
Both the nearby Dreamland Theatre, across the street from the Riviera at 1202 Caledonia Street, and the Dome Theatre (later renamed the Rialto) at 815 Rose Street closed when the Riviera opened on October 17, 1920 with “Homer Comes Home”, starring Charles Ray.
Adult admission was 22 cents; children got in for 11 cents. Synchronized music was provided by the Obrecht Sisters Orchestra of La Crosse. The Riviera was extensively remodeled in 1941-42 and remained open until 1967. In 2010, the Caledonia Street Antique Mall occupied the building.
The Rivoli, La Crosse’s well-known downtown theatre, had its grand opening on September 19, 1920. The Rivoli’s sister theater, the Riviera, opened one month later at 1207-1215 Caledonia St. Both were designed by the La Crosse architectural firm of Parkinson & Dockendorff with interiors designed by Odin Oyen of La Crosse. Each had its own management: the Rivoli by the La Crosse Theater Co., the Riviera by the Cooper Amusement Co.
Kenosha Theatre manager Bill Exton, center (1938).
Dan Kelliher built and opened the Sprague Theatre in May of 1928 with 1300 opening-night patrons in attendance. Public-school superintendent Charles Jahr Sr. was the master of ceremonies and Yonk’s Burlington Orchestra in the pit, and the Princess Quartet vocal group (Kelliher, Ken Goodrich, Victor Johnson and Paul Hughes) offered selections.
Elkhorn Mayor E. T. Ridgway and Attorney E. H. Sprague – for whom the theatre was named – addressed the audience. (Sprague had built his opera house just to the west on the footprint where the Municipal Building now stands, but a fire destroyed it in 1925.)
The opening feature was Mack Sennett’s “Good-Bye Kiss” in its premier screening, and the Sprague’s first Vitaphone feature was “Broadway Melody” in May 1929, with sound provided by a phonograph turntable in the projection booth.
On August 6, 1941, the Sprague Theatre screened a three-evening world premiere of the “Tillie the Toiler” series featuring hometown actress Kay Harris to packed houses.
The Sprague also housed high school plays and commencement exercises, vaudeville acts, appearances by radio and movie personalities, and service-club fundraisers.
It’s said that Dan and Luella Kelliher ran a quality operation at the Sprague for 46 years under their 1928 pledge: “We will never permit anything shoddy or cheap within these walls.”
Arlene Wilkinson was the longtime cashier. The usual program began with a few advertising slides followed by Movietone News, a cartoon and/or a short subject, and then the feature. There were also several free-admission events each year, including a Christmas-holiday program with a bag of candy and another on Halloween plus a program after the parade of high-school students downtown after a bonfire the night before the homecoming football game.
At some time after the Kellihers retired the Sprague Theatre began to show signs of neglect, until the local Lakeland Players theatre group purchased it in 1990.
I’ve posted some rare photos of the PABST wearing its late lamented vertical sign.
From Real Estate, Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Renovation work finally begins for Avalon Theater
A $1.8 million project to renovate and reopen the long-closed Avalon Theater in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood began recently. The project, which has been planned for years, could be completed in time for the theater to open in May. “We’ve started work on the exterior,” said Lee Barczak, the owner of the Avalon Theater. The work that is under way includes roof and exterior masonry work, he said. Barczak, who is also the president and founder of Greendale-based Morgan Kenwood Advisors LLC, also said he is in the process of signing contracts with contractors to do the interior work for the project.
Barczak bought the theater in 2005. His plans to remodel and reopen the theater, which closed in 2001, were delayed when funding sources dried up during the Great Recession. “We had a project ready to go before (the Great Recession),” he said. “That put everything on hold.”
The building, located at 2469-83 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., was built in 1928. “It’s actually in quite good shape as far as the structure goes,” Barczak said. But it needs significant interior upgrades. The redevelopment project will create two movie theaters, one with 240 seats and the other with 70.
All of the interior infrastructure and utilities will be replaced. The project will also include a new kitchen, new concession stands and new bathrooms. The theater will have a bar that will serve food that movie-goers can have served at their seats. Tables will be built into the seat rows. The Avalon Theater will show first-run films, Barczak said.
Last year Barczak formed the Neighborhood Theater Group and acquired the Times Cinema at 5906 W. Vliet St. in Milwaukee and the Rosebud Cinema at 6823 W. North Ave. in Wauwatosa, after those theaters had financial problems in 2011 and were closed after Madison-based AnchorBank foreclosed on the properties.
Barczak said he has worked to improve the relationship between the Times and the Rosebud and Hollywood and is now showing first-run movies at those theaters. “We hired a professional booking agency,” he said. “They’ve worked with us to reestablish our position and credibility.”
The Majestic Theatre Song (by Ray Tutaj): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWPq579xaCM
I worked for nearby WLUV radio in 1970 and it had already been renamed the PARK ART Theatre with an adult format. Its management insisted on sponsoring WLUV’s Noon News, but the station refused to announce anything but the double-entendre film titles and times. In an attempt to assuade community objections, the PARK ART offered G-rated matinees on weekends.
FOND DU LAC — A local developer wants to turn the historic Retlaw Theater into a boutique hotel. Commonwealth Construction Co. has a purchase option and is evaluating repurposing it into an upscale boutique hotel in the recently created Arts and Entertainment District with 34 rooms and retail space, to open in spring 2015. The Retlaw Theatre, opened in 1925 and closed in 1998, for a time served as home to a theater company and Fusion restaurant but has stood vacant for several years. It’s owned by Boyd Partnership. Commonwealth would restore the Retlaw’s primary façade on Main Street.