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The theater will be open this Sunday as part of the Doors Open Milwaukee architectural tour –
My best friend is from the Quad Cities and he and I frequently visit to see his family. The last time we were there was this past Labor Day. We stayed at the Sheraton in downtown Rock Island and went for a walk the morning before we left to see the sites. By the way – one reason downtowns are dying is because they can’t draw people away from the malls with bankers' hours – everything we walked past was closed for Labor Day.
We went past a small, empty theater that my friend said was the old Capri Cinema. I recognized it from this site. The old marquis and outside lighting are in bad shape, but the inside lobby looked salvageable. I didn’t see any “for sale” signs anywhere, so I assume the owner is just leaving it sit perhaps waiting for an offer.
I’m curious about this property and wonder if anyone knows the building’s owner, what condition the interior is in and what it might take to rehab and re-open it. Upon seeing the building and reading about it here, The gears started turning in my head. I’m picturing it re-opening as The Rocket Theater with a retro-30’s sci-fi serial motif a-la Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon and showcasing classic films. Maybe have midnight sceenings on Fridays and/or Saturdays? Anyone from the Quad Cities area like the idea or am I out of my gourd?
One of my best memories from my childhood in Fond du Lac was going to see Disney’s Pinocchio at the Retlaw when it was still one large grand theater. This was in the late 70’s and the Retlaw seemed larger than life and breathtakingly beautiful with it’s ornate lighting and gilded ceilings and the grand lobby.
One correction I need to note about the theater’s history is that it was actually split into three screens in the mid-80’s. There was one larger theater in the middle with two small theaters on either side. In the later 80’s, two additional screens were built onto the back of the original building making it a five-screen. Each theater replicated and preserved the decor of the original. I was proud at the time to say my hometown had preserved and modernized a gorgeous, historical downtown movie house maintaining its original splendor.
My heart broke when I learned the Retlaw was closed in the late 90’s following the opening of the new (and un-originally named) Fond du Lac Theater multiplex on the west side of town by the freeway. When my parents told me the Retlaw was being re-opened as a performing arts center, my hopes were high that it would succeed and future generations could see how wonderful a place it truly is. I’m going to see my niece in a play there and will see it for the first time in years. I pray the new owners have done the old Retlaw justice.