Comments from LouRugani

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LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Aristo Theatre on May 23, 2022 at 7:16 pm

Not to be confused with a much-earlier Aristo Theatre at 1139 North California.

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LouRugani commented about Amus-U Theater on May 23, 2022 at 6:55 pm

Laharpe also had a theatre called the Airdome in 1915.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about State Theatre on May 6, 2022 at 10:30 am

I visited the STATE Theatre in 1970 and was dismayed to see almost no original ornament.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Rhode Center for the Arts on May 3, 2022 at 4:39 pm

(October 25, 1927: Kenosha Evening News) New Gateway Theater Near Opening Date - Saxe Amusement House Enclosed Plans for Opening Early in December

With construction work rapidly nearing a completed stage, opening of the new Gateway theater as the splendid new Saxe Amusement company enterprise which is now rising on the site of the old Rhode theater on Fifty-sixth street traversing the block from Fifty-sixth to Fifty-fifth has been set for early December and means the addition of another beautiful and modern playhouse to the list of fine amusement places in Kenosha. While the building is not finished there is every evidence that the competed project will fill the owners and interested citizens with pride for unique appeal and excellent entertainment service which will be rendered.

Construction work has reached the point where nearly eighty men are employed in the various crews of craftsmen. The plasterers are rushing their work, much of which is a very difficult type with its panelling and staff molding.

Building Is Enclosed - The building is fully enclosed and any amount of inclement weather will offer no obstacle to rapid completion. It is expected by Manager J. L. Morrissey of the Saxe Amusement company’s local enterprises that the last days of November will find the building complete except some of the small items which cannot be done until occupancy begins. Manager Morrissey stated today that nothing is being overlooked and no expense spared to make the theater the last word in construction convenience and service. He said: We have employed Rapp and Rapp as architects because they have to their credit such notable theaters as the Oriental, McYicker’s, Roosevelt, Uptown and Norshore in Chicago. The $16,000,000 theater marvel of this generation which is the Paramount in New York City was constructed by them. “The architects are specialists in ventilation, a much desired feature for any building where thousands of patrons are handled in relatively short periods.

Name Gateway Appropriate

“The Gatewav, so named because of the location of Kenosha in relation to the rest of Wisconsin, is being equipped with a $50,000 refrigerating plant which will keep the temperature at any desired degree regardless of the prevailing weather outside. If necessary the plant could make ice. “A special ventilating engineer will be in constant charge of the equipment which will insure a pure fresh air to every patron of the house.” Manager Morrissey says the stage will be the largest in the state with the exception of the Milwaukee Auditorium. Its dimensions are 36x110 feet which will permit the house to cue for any type of attraction. All seats with the exception of a small number in the mezzanine balcony are on the lower floor. Manager Morrissey said that the experience of the Saxe Amusement company and the forty-two houses it controls in the state of Wisconsin indicates that the vast majority of theater-goers want to sit on the lower floor. For that reason over fifteen hundred may be accommodated in this manner in the new Gateway and about two hundred in the balcony.

Acoustics Planned With Care

The theater is compact and cozy with every seat so arranged that all may see and hear. The acoustics are further enhanced by the small balcony and arched ceiling. The seats are to be of latest design, well cushioned and very comfortable. The entire theater is planned to be soundless and considerable pains have been taken to work out this arrangement. A $50,000 Barton organ is to be installed which will be an exact duplicate of the Wisconsin theater organ in Milwaukee. The two organs are the largest in the state. Though Manager Morrissev could not announce the policy of the Gateway until later, he assures Kenosha theater goers that there will only be pictures of greatest merit, saying “By the control of many theaters, the Saxe Amusement company has the pick of pictures and the best will be shown at the Gateway.”

Staff Now in Training

The entire staff of the new theater is now in training at the Wisconsin theater in Milwaukee. It is the desire and intention of the company to duplicate the service of the Milwaukee house in every particular. The same form of presentation in practice there will be used in Kenosha. Besides the theater itself, entrance of which is on 56th street, there are two stores, both of which are about completed and will soon be leased. The theater covers an area in the middle of the block bounded by 6th and 5th avenues and 56th and 55th streets. It runs the entire length of the block and neither the store building on 6th avenue nor that on 56th street are connected by entrance to the theater.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Climax Theater on May 3, 2022 at 4:08 pm

(Burlington WI Free Press, October 5, 1939) - Funeral services for Louis Plate, 78, owner of the Climax Theater, Fond du Lac Avenue, Milwaukee, were held there last Saturday, with interment in Valhalla cemetery. He died Thursday at his home, 939 N. Twentieth Street. Mr. Plate was born in this city August 12, 1861. He attended the University of Chicago, then moved to Rock Valley, Iowa, where he lived for 17 years. He returned to Wisconsin, living in Oshkosh for several years. He moved to Milwaukee 53 years ago, and purchased the Climax Theater 30 years ago. For a number of years he was vice-president of the Motion Picture association of Milwaukee; and was a close friend of the late Carl Laemmle, president of Universal Pictures, Inc. He retired 10 years ago. He is survived by his wife, Freda, whom he married July 31, 1884; three daughters, Mrs. Marie Potter, and Misses Lunetta and Florence Plate; three sons, Louis, Lorence and Harry; a brother, Henry of San Diego, Calif.; and a sister, Mrs. Henry J. Vos of Burlington, Wis.; fourteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Portage Theatre on Apr 2, 2022 at 5:38 pm

Repairs are inching forward on the long-closed Portage Theatre, part of an ambitious, multi-million-dollar plan from its newest owner to revive the iconic venue. Owner Manuel Gliksberg said he has invested $1 million and navigated financial and legal difficulties, and he needs support from the city if he’s going to reopen the landmarked theatre. The extensive renovation will cost at least $10 million, he estimated. The theatre closed in 2018. Gliksberg, an investor who owns a real estate company, bought it later that year.

Gliksberg said he wants “to make this a forever space for the community,” but the building needs costly upgrades so it’ll have more bathrooms, be up to code and to be ADA-compliant, among other things. Gliksberg applied for a city grant to finance some exterior work with help from local officials, but it wasn’t approved. He’s also had to fix a taxing dispute and resolve building code violations, all of which have slowed his progress, particularly during the pandemic, he said.

Neighbors have long waited for the theatre to reopen. Gliksberg said he wants to inject life into the Six Corners shopping district to spur economic development and reawaken the community anchor, but said there’s only so much he can do with private financing. He said he’s willing to put a significant amount of his own money into repairs, but city funds are also needed for the project to make financial sense.

The Portage Theater closed as a cinema in 2001 after operating almost continuously since its debut in 1920. Gliksberg is the third person to take over the space in the past two decades. Soon after, Gliksberg was told he owed thousands in back taxes from the past three years. Those charges have since been taken care of and paid, according to Gliksberg and Cook County property tax portal.

In 2021, the city sued Gliksberg for building code violations involving exterior wall repairs, gutters and downspouts. City records show those violations are pending, but Gliksberg said a city inspector came to the theatre to sign off on the repairs. In the meantime, Gliksberg said he’s invested about $1 million in fixes to the building, including repairs to the exterior roof and rear façade, city records show. He also has done tuckpointing work on all of the exterior walls of the lobby and auditorium, replaced the roof membrane of the auditorium and put in new gutters and downspouts, he said.

Hoping to help Gliksberg push forward with more renovations, the Six Corners Chamber of Commerce applied for an Adopt-A-Landmark grant for the exterior façade last summer. The group sought $242,300 from the city as part of a five-phase revitalization project to fix and replace terra cotta on the nameplate and monumental arch of the theater. Funds were also requested to repair brick issues that have been safety concerns along Milwaukee Avenue.

The city’s Department of Planning and Development, which oversees the grant program, denied funding in January. City officials said Gliksberg did not yet have a comprehensive exterior and interior rehabilitation plan for making the theatre ready for occupancy, and he still owed taxes on the building. Andy Pierce, the theatre historian and chamber member who helped compile the grant application, said the chamber is on board to help Gliksberg apply for more government funding to complete needed repairs.

Gliksberg also wants to apply to use Portage Park Tax Increment Financing district funds for the project. Funds from the tax pool could be used to fix the signs, arch, interior plaster walls, ceilings and HVAC systems. The Portage Park TIF has about $6.5 million for 2022, according to the department’s financial overview. But that money expires at the end of the year. Planning department spokesperson Peter Strazzabosco said there is a lengthy approval process and it might be too late to process an application that hasn’t been submitted. Any uncommitted funds in the TIF will be returned to the appropriate taxing bodies when it expires, Strazzabosco said. “While TIF can provide some flexibility for certain eligible costs, either as a grant or a loan, the district will expire before the proposed terms could be reviewed, approved, closed and the costs incurred. The city is not aware of a formal plan or project for the building, and there’s not enough time for TIF to be used for a proposed project that wasn’t substantially moving forward by now.”

Gliksberg said he hesitated to apply for TIF funds during the height of the pandemic, when the future of live music wasn’t clear and when it was difficult to contract construction workers, architects and inspectors to determine the work needed on the theater. Even with limited time, he said he’s willing to put in money to draft a comprehensive site plan, hire consultants and architects to help carry out his vision. “I will take this gamble and spend the $600,000-$700,000 to bring in all the consultants and get the TIF money with the hope that the city sees how important this project is for the community, but now we’re up against the clock,” he said.

The chamber is hopeful TIF funding for the Six Corners area, even if the theatre doesn’t receive any, can be hurried through the finish line before it’s too late. Chamber President Michael DiMeo said Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) and planning officials support using the money as soon as possible. “We have to push now. We, as business owners that have paid in, this is that rebate coming back to you that we want to see reinvested.”

Gliksberg also plans to apply for a grant from the Chicago Recovery Plan, which gives small grants up to $250,000 and large grants up to $5 million to developers, property owners and entrepreneurs. Strazzabosco said Gliksberg could also apply for property tax incentives that reduce the tax rate for 12 years and Pace financing for certain energy efficiencies to expand his chances of getting governmental assistance. Pace is a program by The Illinois Energy Conservation Authority that enables commercial property owners to obtain long-term, fixed-rate financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy, water use and more.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Portage Theatre on Apr 2, 2022 at 8:58 am

In its heyday, the Portage Park Theatre was a place for live music, theater shows and cinema events and a community anchor for school ceremonies, events and graduations.

Dennis Wolkowicz, a Northwest Side native and owner of The Silent Film Society of Chicago, and a co-owner took it over in 2005 and renovated the auditorium and lobbies, and he removed drywall that had divided the auditorium into two rooms.

The theater became known as a premier screening room for independent filmmakers who could not afford to book their shows at other theaters, Wolkowicz said. “We’d have up to 1,000 people for the silent film events,” Wolkowicz said. “That was pretty incredible.”

Eddie Carranza took over the theater in 2012 but sold it to an investment firm in 2016 after plans to revive it never materialized. The theater held shows until it closed in 2018.

Wolkowicz is hopeful the building can be preserved and it can again offer artistic opportunities for people looking to grow and uplift the community. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” he said. “This was a unique theater — it was a transitional theater before [artists] went into the big-scale movie palaces … .”

Becky Mocarski, a teacher and manager at Wildlight Yoga Studio in the Portage Lofts across from the theater, wants to see it reopen as a community space to offer cross-business partnerships for events. Its attraction would help small businesses along the corridor and increase the area’s economic stability, she said.

“If it’s drawing people to the community. … it would give that opportunity to see other businesses in the area,” Mocarski said. “Community-based, up-and-coming shows — if that could come back on a small level, the community and neighborhood would fully support that.”

Gliksberg envisions national music shows in the main auditorium that could draw 250,000 people a year, like the Aragon Ballroom in Uptown. Upstairs, he wants to provide a stage for those up-and-coming local musicians, with a similar vibe to Double Door in Uptown and Gallery Cabaret in Wicker Park.

He hopes the space can be a gathering hub for neighborhood events such as movie nights, farmers and artisan markets, holiday events and arts workshops.

“This is a passion project and something I want to do for the community,” he said. “Success means being able to create what 15-year-old me always dreamt of and sharing that with a community.”

(Courtesy Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501©(3), journalist-run newsroom)

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Villa Theater on Mar 23, 2022 at 4:05 pm

The city of Milwaukee and the Villard Avenue Business Improvement District issued a request for proposals (RFP) for developers interested in restoring the historic Villa/Ritz Theatre and returning it to its original use as an entertainment venue.

“It is our hope that the movie theatre will be a catalytic development such as the open-air theatre rendering that was re-envisioned in our historic virtual charrette during the summer of 2020,” said Villard BID director Angelique Sharpe today. “We would like to see it continue on with its long tradition of being able to house all kinds of entertainment such as cinema and film, performance, comedy, music, and dance.”

Constructed in 1926 by Michael Brumm to be an independent theatre, the 840-seat Spanish Colonial-style theater was used primarily as a movie theatre through a variety of owners, up until 1986 when Marcus Theatres closed it. Tanya and Herman Lewis bought it in 1988 and ran it as both a first and second-run theatre and community playhouse for several years before ceasing operation in 1995. Since then, the building has been used as a salon, a church, a bookstore, and a school. The city acquired the building through a tax foreclosure in 2015.

Restoration is projected at nearly $2 million, with the Department of City Development possibly incorporating alternative financing such as historic tax credits, tax incremental financing, and other sources.

Alderman Ashanti Hamilton who represents the Villard Avenue business district said that he was confident qualified developers would step up to help breathe new life back into the neighborhood landmark. “The impending redevelopment of the historic Villard Theatre is expected to be one of the most significant investments on Villard Avenue, but also for the far northwest side of Milwaukee, and the city as a whole. I can personally remember a time where this theatre was a destination that brought movie lovers from all parts of Milwaukee, both young and old, to visit Villard Avenue. This is a significant step for the commercial corridor, the neighborhood, and the entire city.”

To build excitement, the Villard Avenue BID will host a virtual developers' forum at 11 a.m. on March 25 with a panel discussion from industry experts including Lee Barczak, co-owner of the Neighborhood Theatre Group which operates the Avalon Theatre in Bay View, the Rosebud Theatre in Wauwatosa, and the Times Cinema on Vliet Street in Milwaukee. Immediately following the forum, developer teams will have the opportunity to partake in self-guided tours of the theatre. Proposals are due back to the city by noon on Friday, May 6.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Badger Theater on Mar 13, 2022 at 8:27 pm

A good, concise video history of the BADGER Theatre. https://www.facebook.com/stoughtonvillageplayers/videos/3994128964017197/ I saw its two-manual Wicks organ.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Orpheum Theatre on Mar 1, 2022 at 8:25 pm

(Smart Reader [Kenosha WI], Feb. 25, 2022) The glorious Orpheum which celebrates 100 years this March was not the first Orpheum in Kenosha. The original Orpheum was located on 56th Street next to the Fischer Hotel, east of Sixth Avenue. It opened on Saturday, September 24, 1910, and in addition to singers and other acts, the theatre touted clear, bright, and beautiful pictures for just five cents (2022 = $1.40).

Kenosha Evening News, October 1910: “The Orpheum Theatre is now equipped to give the public the finest service as a moving picture house,” The Kenosha Evening News read on November 15, 1911. “The very best pictures are the only ones used in this theatre.”

Edward and Fred Dayton were brothers both in name and in every venture they entered and they are now known as key instruments in the growth of Kenosha in the early 20th century. When Edward returned from serving as a captain in World War I, he had grand ideas of what could happen to Kenosha. He believed Kenosha needed a hotel. Kenosha had plenty of smaller hotels at the time, but Dayton thought Kenosha needed a top- notch hotel to rival the best hotels in nearby Milwaukee and Chicago – one that could attract the conventions and big events which were passing on Kenosha due to lack of such a venue. Without much support politically from the Kenosha government, the Dayton brothers let their hotel idea simmer on the back burner.

A year before the Orpheum’s first bricks were laid, the foundation was already in place. The Dayton brothers along with John and Thomas Saxe were the principal stockholders in the Kenosha Orpheum Theatre Company. They began working with the Majestic (5717 Sixth Ave.) and Strand (5611 22nd Ave.) theatres in Kenosha. The Orpheum Theatre Company, with the help of Harry M. Vale and A.B. McCall, opened the Orpheum Theatre we know today in 1922 (more on that soon). With the help of 189 stockholders, the eight-floor Dayton Hotel opened on June 20, 1925, just south of the Orpheum building.

Edward Dayton remained influential in the community, becoming involved in other local theatres, including the Majestic, Butterfly and Burke, as well as serving on the Salvation Army Advisory board, the American Legion club, the Knights of Columbus and numerous more before his death in July 1956 at the age of 80.

The Orpheum theatre was constructed at a cost of $400,000 (2022 = $1.65M) and first opened its doors where the livery barn of Chet Wattles and the wholesale liquor sales office of L.H. Beall once stood. Although numerous smaller movie houses were in Kenosha, the Orpheum was Kenosha’s first real “movie palace.” The day prior to the grand opening, the Kenosha Evening News provided over four entire pages to coverage about the the new movie palace. Headlines for the various stories include: “Orpheum Theatre Beautiful Opens Tomorrow (sic),” “A Structural Masterpiece,” “Orpheum Organ Second to None,” and “Meet Manager William Mick.”

The theatre had a dramatic contrast of its plain commercial exterior. The lush extravagant interior was designed in the French Renaissance style and decorative details included rich rugs, gold pendants, mirrored lights, silk-beaded upholstery, velvet drapes, silk wallpaper in red, blue, orange and gold tones, and a $20,000 (2022 = $331,000) Barton organ.

“We have had to work like beavers but the theatre will be ready in all its glory for opening night,” theatre manager William Mick told the Kenosha Evening News prior to the Orpheum’s grand opening.

In the dedicatory address, Professor O. L. Trenary said “A struggling, ugly village has grown into a wonderful little city because of some splendid fellows dreamed dreams and made those dreams come true.”

When the theatre opened in 1922, it reflected itself as an important cultural and moral force. “This theatre will never display a sign that announces: ‘This Picture is Not For Children’ or ‘For Men Only’,” stated one representative of the Saxe Amusement Company, the operators of the theatre.

In 1922, Kenosha Evening News called the Orpheum “A structural masterpiece; in exquisiteness of exterior and interior design.”

The opening night’s main feature was the US debut of “Smiling Through,” a 96-minute drama starring Norma Talmadge and Harrison Ford (no, not that Harrison Ford; there was an earlier one then.) But it wasn’t just a film that audiences were in for. The evening’s program for the first week included an overture by the Orpheum Orchestra Supreme, “Orpheum Flashes”, news from all parts of the world, “Hy-Colman’s Syncopators” with Zada Weber and Rosalie Reuter in “Dance Supreme”, Harold Lloyd starring in the 19-minute comedic short “Never Weaken,” George Lipschultz and Harry Linder presenting “Musical Moments,” and then the main event, “Smiling Through.”

The upcoming weekend saw five big acts of vaudeville hosted by Yip Yip Yap Hankers from the State Lake Theatre in Chicago.

With concerns over the Spanish flu spreading across the world less than four years prior to the opening of the Orpheum, Mack stressed that the theatre took all precautions to keep guests safe and healthy. “The audience in the theatre will not breathe the same air twice, as a constant change of air will take place – pure outside air being poured in every minute while the foul air is being exhausted by large fans.”

In 1922, the theatre seated 1,422 and was billed “the safest theatre in the world”. In addition to screen attractions, the Orpheum also hosted vaudeville acts on the weekends. On Mondays through Thursdays, the theatre would show First National and Paramount films continuously from noon to 11pm. On Fridays through Sundays, the vaudeville acts would take the stage for evening performances and Sunday matinees. Admission at the time was 25 cents for the films and 40 cents for the weekend shows (2022 = $4.18 and $6.69 respectively).

By 1924, the building as a whole was going strong. The Kenosha Evening News called it ‘a veritable city in itself.’ In addition to the theatre, other tenants in the building included a drug store, a men’s clothing store, an optical shop, a light-lunch emporium, physician and dentist offices, a beauty parlor, insurance and advertising agencies, voice-culture instructors, piano and violin teachers, a tailor shop, a soda fountain, long-distance telephone booths, and more.

The Orpheum was operated by Saxe Amusement and managed locally by Edward Dayton until February 1928, when Fox Theatres Inc. took over. Fox changed the name to “The Lake” and it stayed that for the next five years. In August 1933, Saxe regained control of the theatre and The Orpheum name returned. With that, The Orpheum hosted a gala on October 1, 1933. One-part fashion show, one-part Hollywood premiere, and over two dozen celebrity impersonators arrived in glittering automobiles surrounded by powerful searchlights bathed in light, dressed in lavish gowns and the best suits. Young Kenoshans portrayed such greats as Joan Crawford, the Marx Brothers, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Laurel and Hardy, and many more. Much of the glorious jewelry and fancy clothes worn by the “stars” were the hottest fashions provided by local shops like Segals, C.S. Hubbard’s, and Korf’s Sixth Avenue. After the “stars” went into the theatre, ticketgoers were welcomed in for the U.S. premiere of the Victor McLaglen film “Laughing at Life” as well as entertainment from the dancers of the Elaine Beth Studio and music by the Orpheum Theatre Orchestra.

In September, 1941, the management of the theatre changed hands once again when the Orpheum was one of nine Wisconsin theatres involved in a deal where Saxe Amusement Company leased the theatre to Fox-Wisconsin Amusement. From here after, the Orpheum name remained unchanged.

In July of 1942, the Orpheum hosted an interesting event. At midnight on a Monday, guests were treated to a “Midnight Voodoo Party.” “Invisible demons will raise tables, raise spooks, and raise Cain on the stage when H.L. Weber, a noted demonstrator of occult lore, brings his troupe of invisible zombies for this shuddery thrill show,” the Kenosha Evening News reported at the time.

In January, 1948, the new film “Blaze of Noon” starring William Holden and Anne Baxter opened at the Orpheum and a special guest was in attendance. The actual Academy Award won by Baxter in 1947 for her role in “The Razor’s Edge” was on display in the theatre lobby.

A lifetime before “American Idol” took over the TV airwaves, the Orpheum hosted a talent competition in March, 1949. 25-year-old George Chromcik won the $100 (2022 = $1,171) prize and advanced to the state finals in the ‘Talent Quest for Stars of Tomorrow.’ However, Chromchik would not make his way to Hollywood. In the state finals, ventriloquist Robert King of Fond du Lac won the Wisconsin championship.

The television age.

As television was growing in popularity across Kenosha and the country, movie theatres had to find new gimmicks to fill the seats. In a November 1956 ad, the Orpheum gave away a “free small turner (spatula) with a copper tone handle” to all ladies who purchased an adult ticket.

Filmmaker Bert I. Gordon returned to his hometown in June of 1958 to host a double feature of two of his films, his latest: “Attack of the Puppet People” and “War of the Colossal Beast” at the Orpheum. In a Q&A with audience members at the screening, Gordon gave his views on the film industry at the time, saying that horror pictures are just coming into their own. “They will replace westerns in most theatres. Television pretty much has the western market covered.” Throughout the evening, Gordon also determined that filmgoers wanted more gore, less creepiness, no future-centric horror films, and fewer women (which drew some negative reactions from both men and women alike in the crowd).

Beginning in 1958 and into the 1970s, the First National Bank of Kenosha hosted an annual Junior Banker Party at the Orpheum. All youngsters with their Junior Banker Badge could come out on Saturday morning for a full-length feature film, cartoons, and free popcorn.

In the summer of 1960, the words “Air Conditioned” were first used in Orpheum advertising. That year movie prices were 95 cents for matinees, and evening performances were $1.25 (2022 = $8.95 and $11.77 respectively.

In October 1960, the Orpheum hosted a Safety Slogan Award ceremony in conjunction with Certified Grocery Stores of Kenosha. The first 2,500 boys and girls who submitted their entry received a free ticket to the show. Kenosha Mayor Eugene Hammond and Police Chief Stanley Haukendahl participated in the event. The winners were David Arndt, who won a bicycle from Montgomery Wards, Bobby Allan Demarais who won a wristwatch from D’Jemes Jewelers, and in third place, Blake Seitz took home a $25 gift certificate to J.C. Penney. All attendees then enjoyed a special screening of “For the Love of Mike,” starring Richard Basehart.

In 1961, Orpheum manager Wallace “Wally” Konrad took out a classified ad in the Kenosha News seeking a Candy Counter Girl who was “neat and attractive.”

In June of 1962, the Orpheum theatre was leased by Prudential Theatre Co., operator of 58 movie houses in the eastern US. The Orpheum was one of 19 Wisconsin theatres in the deal.

Bradford High School’s prom of the late 1950s and through the ‘60s make today’s proms look pretty tame by comparison. The biggest social event of the year for many high school students was held on a Friday evening in April, and just hearing the plan for the evening is exhausting. The Downtown Kiwanis Club worked with the Eagles Club and the Orpheum for a full evening (and morning) of entertainment. After the completion of the prom, the students were led by a police escort to the Orpheum where they enjoyed a premiere showing of a new picture. While the film played, Kiwanis Club members transformed the Eagles Club into a colorful arrangement for the second phase of the prom – The After-Glow. After the film, the students returned to the the Eagles to be treated to a buffet and more dancing into the wee hours of the morning. As dawn began to break over Lake Michigan, a breakfast was served to the students after a long night of fun, created by Kiwanis after some parents voiced concerns of kids not going directly home after prom but seeking additional fun, sometime venturing to Milwaukee or Chicago. This tradition would continue to involve the Orpheum until 1970, the following year prom-goers would attend a screening at the nearby Lake Theatre.

The vaudeville and other non-cinematic forms of entertainment didn’t come around as often as they used to at the Orpheum in the 1960s. But there were still interesting performers. On December 30, 1963, a few topnotch TV and recording stars appeared in a one-night-only show. Johnny Tillotson, recording headliner, appeared with Paul and Paula, a young singing duo. The program also included appearances by Ronnie Cochran and the Kasuals Orchestra for two showings, at 7:30pm and 9:55pm.

Win a puppy! That’s right, in September 1965, the Orpheum hosted a promotion with the screening of the new film “My Pal Wolf,” the story of a little girl and her dog. Everyone in attendance received a free “wolf dog whistle”, and kids were encouraged to enter the coloring contest where two puppies were given away to the winners at the Saturday and Sunday matinee showings that week.

By 1965, traffic was a big concern in downtown Kenosha, and not from the shoppers. Some business owners expressed concerns over teenagers “scooping the loop” – aimless driving back and forth on Sixth Avenue with friends while not spending much money at the local businesses. To combat this, the city drew up a plan to convert Sixth Avenue from 55th to 59th Street to one-way southbound-only. One who was adamantly against this was Orpheum Manager Wally Konrad, who got support of 55 of the 63 business owners along Sixth Avenue who’d be affected by this to stand with him in opposition. “Re-routing prospective customers away from routes they have been using through force of habit for many, many years will discourage them and send them to our number one competitors – the shopping centers,” Konrad said in the petition. “If they put in one-way traffic, they’re not going to solve the scooping problem,” Konrad said. “Two lanes moving in one direction will encourage drag racing. (We) don’t care to discourage teenagers from coming downtown. They’re the customers of tomorrow.”

In February 1967, the Academy Award-winning musical “The Sound of Music” began an eight-week run at the Orpheum, one of the longest running films at the theatre. By popular demand, the film would return to the Orpheum later in the year for an encore engagement.

The month of October, 1967 brought trouble to the Orpheum. On the night of October 2nd, a thief broke into the theatre and stole a coin box from a cigarette machine after apparently failing to break open the safe. 20-year-old William Young was later found guilty of that crime as well as seven additional burglaries in the area. A few days later, a group of rowdy young people attacked 18-year-old Orpheum employee Jerry Gollnick inside the theatre after Gollnick ordered a non-paying patron to leave. A concession attendant was also struck by the group when she tried to intercede. Gollnick had no serious injuries; he was treated and released at St. Catherine’s Hospital, and Wally Konrad said he now planned to hire an off-duty policeman to protect the premises.

After 11 years of managing the Orpheum and over 25 years in the cinema business, Wallace Konrad announced his retirement in March 1968. Konrad was as much a fan of films as he was devoted to his job. It was said there were no questions about the business that he couldn’t answer. Konrad personally selected the films that would be shown at the Orpheum and took his work very seriously. Things would never really be the same for the Orpheum after Konrad’s retirement.

The beginning of the end.

In the summer of 1968, the Orpheum changed ownership hands once again. United Artists Circuit Inc. purchased a chain of 22 Prudential theatres in six Wisconsin cities including the Orpheum. Around this time, the Orpheum began to direct its focus to occasional kids' matinees on some weekends and adult-themed material in the evenings..

Some area religious leaders came together to lease the Orpheum for the week of October 18-24, 1968 for a showing of the 1965 film “The Restless Ones” produced by the Rev. Billy Graham. The film deals with problems of youth and their relationships with parents, society and their God. The screening of the film was heavily endorsed by the community, including police chief Robert Bosman and Captain Beulah Hartwig of the Juvenile Division, the latter stating, “I sincerely wish that every teenager in Kenosha could see this film.” Many local businesses encouraged their customers to see the film as well, including Kendall Shoes, 6208 22nd Ave. and the Town and County Shopping Center, both of which mentioned the showing in their own newspaper advertisements.

In September 1969, the Orpheum, now in its 47th year, was beginning to show signs of aging. Firefighters were called when a large sheet of metal from the ornamental molding atop the building began to blow loose during a downpour. Additionally, a falling piece of masonry left a dent in a parked car below and firemen refastened the loose pieces into place.

In January 1970, after a showing of “John and Mary” starring Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow, two men entered the theatre around midnight and held a gun to 21-year-old employee James Warrenburg. The thieves managed to escape with $515 (2022 = $3,700). They were never caught.

Two years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., audiences nationwide could come out on March 24, 1970 for a screening of “King: A Filmed Record - Montgomery to Memphis.” The Orpheum was one of 1,000 theatres showing the film, with proceeds going to the Martin Luther King Foundation.

In June 1970, the first X-rated film was shown at the Orpheum, titled “Vixen.” But the Orpheum wasn’t the only local theatre getting in the adult movie game – that same weekend, the Roosevelt Theatre was showing the X-rated “The Best House in London”. However, that wasn’t a permanent direction for the Orpheum. The following week, the theatre brought in the family film “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.”

On December 7, 1970, for a $7.50 ticket (2022 = $53) boxing fans could watch the Muhammed Ali/Oscar Bonavena boxing match live from Madison Square Garden on the big screen through a closed-circuit telecast.

In time for Christmas 1971, the United Artists Theatre Circuit, owners of the Orpheum, opened UA Cinema 1 & 2 at the Welles Plaza Shopping Center on 75th St and 57th Ave. The two theatres with a shared lobby and concession stand seated 500 and 350 each.

Though the Orpheum was playing adult features, it still did family-friendly promotions in 1972. For the horror film “Frogs,” kids got in free if they brought in their pet frog (in a cage). Cash prizes were awarded to “the most beautiful frog” and kids were encouraged to dress up their frog (suggesting mini-bikinis or tuxedos.)

In June 1972, after the showing of “Swinging Stewardesses” and “How to Succeed With Sex,” two cans of film were taken from the sidewalk in front of the Orpheum as Leo Schuessler was locking up. On March 10, 1974 management reported that the ticket booth was entered on Sunday afternoon and a cash box with $245 (US = $1,385) was taken. The Orpheum was currently showing “The Exorcist”, which played for over two months. Later in 1974, the Orpheum began to cater nearly exclusively to the adult crowd, and it seemed that UA Theatres began to separate itself from the Orpheum in September 1974. Advertising referred to it simply as "The Orpheum”, with no mention of UA Theatres. United Artists was directing its focus to the new UA Cinema 1 & 2 on Kenosha’s west side. In January, 1975 Gonnering Realtors posted the Orpheum Building for sale. That June, an ad read “With the new Downtown Mall coming, think of the possibilities for the Orpheum Theatre and building. It is for sale so call us for further information.” Bernard ‘Bargain Bernie’ Chulew was well-known for his expertise in selling furniture and his memorable TV commercials. After starting at Barr Furniture, Chulew opened a number of furniture stores in the area, including Furniture Seconds and Mr. Furniture. Chulew also dabbled in real estate. September 30, 1975 was the day Bernie Chulew purchased the building from United Artists Theatres, and the Orpheum projectors went dark that same day, after 53 years. The final program was an X-rated double feature of “Emmanuelle” and “Candy.” Chulew did not want to see the theatre closed. His daughter, Rebecca Chulew believes that the city was not working with her father to help keep it open. “My dad tried, and he really took pride in the Orpheum,” Rebecca said in a recent interview.

Other factors were at work as well. In the 1970s, many business were abandoning their downtown locations to new accommodations in strip malls on Kenosha’s west side. Kenosha converted Sixth Ave. to the “Southport Mall” in the fall of 1975, and local politicians and investors saw the Orpheum as well beyond its prime and not worth the effort. Film distributors weren’t eager to work with independent owners and multiplexes like the new UA Cinema in Kenosha and others were starting to damage revenues at single-screen movie houses around the U.S.

In January 1976, the theatre itself became home to the Kenosha Indoor Flea Market on weekends, and throughout the mid-1970s and approaching the 80’s the storefronts and offices in the building seemed to be doing well, home to such as the The Express Restaurant, Finance System of Kenosha, Kenosha Christian Fellowship, Water World, Automotive Parts Company, Wisconsin AMVETS, Transcendental Meditation, Spectrum Music Studio and the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization.

In late 1981, developers Tom Pitts of Pitts Bros. and Associates and Wayne Haney of Wilson-Haney Architects had dreams for the Orpheum building to be part of what they called the Renaissance Hotel Corporation/Southport Mall Revitalization Project, and asked the city for $326,000 (2022 = $1.6M) in a plan which would relocate residents at the Dayton Care Center and create a conference center, transforming the Dayton to a high-class 75-room hotel with a skywalk connecting it to a 600-seat conference center in the Orpheum Building. Pitts and Haney imagined the complex spurring a whole new outward appearance for that area and downtown Kenosha as a whole. But in December 1981 the Community Development Block Grant Citizens Advisory Committee voted to not recommend the Dayton-Orpheum project., citing a lack of private investor commitments and insufficient planning. Despite the funding denial, Tom Pitts was not discouraged. “We definitely feel that the project is still on,” he said to the Kenosha News. “No two ways about it … the City Council is the final review agency.” And in November 1983 the City Council voted to spend $255,000 in federal money over the next three years to rehabilitate the classic Dayton Hotel, 521 59th Street, as the dreams of the Dayton-Orpheum project began to fade, plans for the conference center fell through, and by the end of 1986, some downtown business owners were calling for the Orpheum to be razed.

In March 1984, the last operating movie theatre in downtown Kenosha and the last of Kenosha’s grand old movie houses, the Lake Theatre - opened as the Gateway in 1927 - announced it will close its doors, citing poor business.

(In the mid-1980s, the Orpheum storefronts interestingly featured an odd mix of beliefs and practices. On the second floor was Bible Baptist Church … and The Blue Moon Curio, an occult book store, was on the street level. Pastor Dana Kirshein of the 35-member Bible Baptist told the Kenosha News in 1984 that he was opposed to the occult, but stated “I don’t perceive it as a threat. I view it as an opportunity to convert.”)

In early 1988, a group of young people attempted to revive the Orpheum as a performing arts center. For Kenosha boy Kelly Mackay, what began as a project on the Gateway student radio station grew into a local television show, and then expanded into hosting concerts. Mackay, Jeff Moody, Jim Wells and others were producers of the Jones Intercable public-access music show Video Brain Damage, later called Video Whiplash. Mackay and his cohorts developed a relationship with indie record labels across the nation and would get new videos of hot young groups and the chance to see up-and-coming bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone at nearby venues to record for their shows. Mackay began to look into local venues to book acts that were visiting the area. One of the first places he looked at was a large warehouse at 22nd Avenue and 56th Street (now home to the VMC Lofts). It didn’t quite suit his needs but the owner, one Bernie Chulew, told him about a theatre he owned in downtown Kenosha and how that might work.

“It was a mess.” Mackay said in a recent interview. “It was the middle of winter and there was a waterfall of ice coming from the ceiling. Backstage behind the curtain was 3 feet deep of pigeon (feces) and carcasses. I put the word out and next thing you know I had a ton of people around my age who were totally into it. I was 17 and I came from a performing-arts background in school. My hope was to have a youth directed performing arts center.” It took three months to clean everything out of the theatre. Mackay said he’d sleep in one of the empty offices so he could get up at the crack of dawn, stop at Franks Diner for coffee, then work on the theatre throughout the day. On April 7, 1988, in an attempt to raise funds for paint and other necessities, an art show was organized with the help of Dale “Dr. Destruction” Wamboldt with a cookout outside on the Mall. For a fee, people could take a sledgehammer to a Chrysler.

By May, the Orpheum was ready for its rebirth as a concert venue. Mackay cited Moody, Jack Koshick, Don Lipkie and Tony Jakubowski as the essential team for obtaining the acts, the first of which, booked to play the grand-opening on May 27, 1988, was Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction. This sleazy British hard rock band was heating up the charts and the MTV airwaves with their recent debut album and the singles “Prime Mover” and “Backseat Education.” The tour was promoted on MTV, possibly the first (only?) time Kenosha was mentioned on the iconic music channel. The band was excited to take the stage that Friday night, but the organizers were concerned. They’d been up all night preparing the Orpheum, even having plumbing equipment flown in at the zero hour so the basement bathroom was in full operation, and the one thing they were waiting for was the proper permit. As the band tossed a football out in the Southport Mall ust hours before the show, the word came down from the city – the show was not going to happen. “We were shut down because there was a piece of tile missing and they didn’t issue our permit,” Mackay recalls. “After going to the Downtown BID (Business Improvement District) board meetings, it was pretty clear that they were against anything like this happening downtown.” But soon the tile was fixed, the permits were granted, and concerts came to the Orpheum in 1988 through that summer and fall, including national acts. Lifelong Kenoshan Chris Bacewicz was a young teenager at the time and excited to experience live music in Kenosha. “I always loved the old theatres and being able to go inside and think of how it once was was really cool. I was 14 at the time and started getting my own identity in life. The Orpheum shows were my first experience of live music and I was swept up in the spirit of it,” he said in a recent interview. “Music, particularly live and local stuff, has a soul-saving spirit that has gotten me through tough times more than anything.” Lisa Henthorn, rhythm guitarist of the band Oops! at the time, recalls the night her band played with Die Monster Die on October 31, 1988. “It was awesome – it was one of my first gigs. I was nervous but the place sounded and looked so freaking cool, it was definitely the perfect Halloween gig,” Henthorn said recently. “Before the show, we got to wander around the building a little bit. It was kind of spooky. Some parts of it looked like it had just closed and things were still in their places. We explored through the tunnel under the road and found a barbershop with the combs still in the now-empty glass jars that once were filled with cleaner solution.” The Smashing Pumpkins played their first out-of-state show in Kenosha at the Orpheum on November 18th, 1988. The little known Chicago band was building a solid reputation and were honing their skills at Chicago clubs Avalon, 21 Club and the Metro before coming to Kenosha. Mackay recalled his interaction at the time. “I remember sitting on the corner with Billy (Corgan) from Smashing Pumpkins and he asked me what I thought of his band’s name. I told him I personally didn’t like it, but it was clever and marketable and they should stick with it.” The band, later known for the hits “Today” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” would be so inspired by the aesthetic of the Orpheum’s interior they would return a few weeks later to take promotional pictures inside the theatre. Many of these photos were reported to have been published in independent ‘zines soon after, but they were still a few years from being on the cover of Rolling Stone.

The Orpheum as a concert venue was a valiant effort through 1988, but heating and other problems curtailed performances in the winter of 1988-89 - and after conflicts between the event organizers and property owner Bernie Chulew, live music did not return in 1989.

In January 1990, police were called to the theatre and reported a group of teens inside who had started two fires to keep warm. The fires were extinguished as several of the young people tried to flee, but police managed to arrest a 19-year old woman and two boys, ages 17 and 14. At this time, the Orpheum was perhaps in the worst condition of its history. The businesses occupying the storefronts were gone, the offices upstairs were empty, and in September of 1990 the classic marquee was removed by city order. By 1992, the Orpheum was seriously face to face with the wrecking ball, many city officials seeing it as an eyesore and hoping for redevelopment. James Schultz, director of the city Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development, said that the necessary repairs for the building were well over the value of the building. “That building has been a sore spot for the downtown for many years now … the matter of razing it is being reviewed … I imagine it’s something we’re going to proceed on in the very near future,” Schultz said at the time, according to the Kenosha News.

Bernie Chulew did not want to see his theatre be destroyed. “I think I’m being singled out,” Chulew said in 1992, as reported by the Kenosha News. “There are a lot of buildings downtown in worse shape than mine.” Alderman Frank Pacetti, council chairman and chairman of the City Redevelopment Authority, concurred, “It’s a travesty inside. It doesn’t make economic sense.”

One citizen stood strongly on the side of the decrepit theatre. Lou Rugani – at the time a member of the Landmarks Commission. “Restoration upgrades an area and returns a sense of place to a neighborhood while creating jobs during the work and employment afterward,” Rugani said in 1993, according to the Kenosha News. Rugani recollects those days in a recent interview: “The demolition cost for the Orpheum would be about half a million bucks and we suggested giving that money to any developer who would reopen it, which makes sense.” Rugani, with the help of other preservationists like Merike Phillips, helped save the Orpheum from the wrecking ball and it was declared a local landmark by the end of 1993. But being a “local landmark” was more of a glamorized term than an official sign of salvation.

In October 1994, Mayor John Antaramian delivered what could have been the death sentence to the Orpheum. “There needs to be a resolution in the next 30 days,” Antaramian said, as reported by Kenosha News. “After that, it’s time to start the process of bringing the building down.” Though some claimed the building was beyond repair, it was repaired. Rather quickly too.

Jeffrey Maher, chairman of JDM International Realty bought the building in early 1995 and costs for renovation were said to have run close to $500,000 (2022 = $914K). “Without Merike Phillips, I’m not sure the Orpheum would have survived,” Rugani said in a 2022 interview. “She was the one who found Jeffrey (Maher). I give her full credit for her efforts on behalf of saving the Orpheum.”

On November 19, 1995, the Orpheum triumphantly re-opened as a two- screen budget theatre. Moviegoers would pay $2 (2022 = $3.66) admission to see “Babe,” “A Walk in the Clouds” or “Apollo 13” on its opening weekend. However the reborn Orpheum looked a bit plain from the street on its re-opening, since construction issues delayed the installation of the new marquee by over a week. “That beautiful marquee was actually kind of a tribute to the original marquee and coincidentally it was built by the company who made the very original marquee, Poblocki Sign Company in Milwaukee,” Rugani said.

One person from the Orpheum’s past returned when it re-opened as a budget theatre. Kelly Mackay saw the theatre was being renovated and investigated. “I lived across the street, above Daisy’s Vanity Shoppe (now House of Nutrition), and I walked over to see what was going on and talked to them. I got hired when they opened and was later promoted to assistant manager. It was a great part-time job.” Within a few years, the theatre would split once again, now occupying four screens with the balcony being converted to two additional theatres. But the variety in films over four smaller screens, even at budget prices, couldn’t keep the audiences.

The street outside the Orpheum Building was the backdrop for a scene in the 1999 film “The Last Great Ride” starring Ernest Borgnine and Eileen Brennan. While Borgnine’s character tells a story to the other characters, we’re given a visual flashback to 1942 Chicago, which was actually Sixth Avenue around 1999. Automobiles from the era lined the streets for the clip, the marquee at the Orpheum advertised the 1948 Humphrey Bogart film “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” and yes, that’s an error on the filmmakers' part, not a typo. The scene, which is less than a minute long, interestingly cements the Orpheum building in cinematic history from a totally different perspective.

By Spring 1999, Orpheum developer Jeff Maher stopped making payments on the $265,000 loan; by November the Orpheum was facing foreclosure, and once again closed its doors in January, 2000. But interest in the building was still strong. One was Illinois developer Paul McDonough. “When I first started buying buildings in downtown Kenosha, I purchased two on the same day. I called them the beauty and the beast!” McDonough said in a recent interview. “The beauty was the Market Square building at 56th & Sixth Ave., now owned by Anytime Fitness owner Louie Arreco. The beast was the Orpheum. At the time, this historic four-story building had gone through a sheriff’s auction but there were no takers. Johnson Bank owned the property via foreclosure. While it was vacant of paying tenants, it was occupied by hundreds of pigeons flying in and out of the various broken windows! While we toured the building, one of the bankers quite literally got sick and threw up during the walk through.”

McDonough purchased the Orpheum Building in 2001 and put $200,000 into the building looking to attract new businesses. “We filled 27 dumpsters removing all the trash and debris out of the building,” he recalls. “We installed 42 new Thermopane windows with maroon frames that matched the large theatre marquee. We then installed three new commercial storefronts along Sixth Avenue. The storefronts each had their own heating and air conditioning, new restrooms, oak hardwood floors, new period art deco chandeliers, etc.” Although his offer of “six months free rent” didn’t get any bites on the four-screen movie house, three businesses did move into the storefronts in the Spring of 2003: Peacetree Originals, wireless-phone company Nextel, and Divine Essentials. “I give credit to my tenants,” McDonough said in 2003, as reported by the Kenosha News. “They are pioneers to go into that space.’

As time went by, McDonough, a consummate businessman, put the building back on the market. Jennifer and John Heim bought the building in 2005 and opened The Laboratory Toy Store in the southwest corner. At the time, the Heims had dreams of re-opening the cinema. “Is the equipment current and does it work? Will we be able to use all those seats?” Jennifer Heim said in 2007, according to the Kenosha News. “But we’re definitely happy with it and we would like to see the theatre reopen at some point.” But money was an issue and the theatre needed updating, including becoming handicapped-accessible. Dr. Destruction (Dale Wamboldt) helped keep the spirit of the Orpheum alive by hosting a concert with his band Dead Leathers in 2009 and appearances in following years in front of the theatre including the Gypsy Museum of the Macabre and The Summer of Lovecraft Art Fair.

Although visitors found the toy store a unique community asset, the cash registers didn’t share that enthusiasm. In the spring of 2014, the Heims were looking for new owners to take over the Toy Store and Scoops Ice Cream Shoppe. Heim’s Toy Store closed in the Summer of 2014, and the Heim family relocated to Chicago and began renting the space. Julie and Carl Soldenwagner bought Scoops and relocated the store in early 2017 to Eighth Avenue. In the 21st century, the theatre remains dark, but the storefronts saw some activity. Additional local businesses that occupied the retail shops in the past 20 years also include Elsie Mae’s and currently Belissima’s Boutique and Kenosha Beauty Supply.

In September 2016, the Orpheum received another shot at life when Alex Kudrna, owner of Backyard Dream Productions, purchased the building with dreams of turning portions of the four-story complex into a digital production studio, rented office space, concert venue, restaurant, and yes, a theatre. It seems that cleaning up the building is a never-ending process and a recurring theme for each owner. “As we begin to clean up the building from years of vacancy and renovations, I found original ceilings that were hidden by drop ceilings, found plasterwork and old windows framed up behind drywall. A lot of hidden crawl spaces and nooks. We even found a Playboy magazine from the ‘70s in the electrical closet,” Kudrna said in a recent interview. By December, 2017, Kudrna opened “The O” on the second floor of the building as a shared and short-term office space. “It can be a stepping stone,” Kudrna said at the time, according to the Kenosha News. “A business might be here for two months, and next month maybe they will go buy their own place. Or if someone has a home office and they want to go somewhere nicer for client meetings. I want to help the community as a stepping stone.”

“The Orpheum had a lot of owners over the years. I feel they caused a lot of historical damage in the 1990s when they tried to save the theatre by adding four theatres. For the short time that it was open, I don’t feel it was worth it to destroy the architecture and history of the theatre. The two owners after the ‘90s did a lot to preserve the building and added much needed infrastructure. I feel each owner worked to upgrade the space so it can continue to stand and be a usable building. I have learned it is not cheap to keep up a building of this scale or historic nature. It takes someone with the love of history to truly care about it. My goals are to keep moving forward and making sure the infrastructure is adequate to keep it around for another 100 years, and of course have a working theatre!”

As the Orpheum celebrates 100 years, Kudrna said that a birthday party for his beloved building is a must. “For the 100th anniversary we are planning on a 2-day block party. I can’t release too many details yet, but you won’t want to miss this event!”

As the owner of Backyard Dream Productions, Kudrna is a indeed a self-professed dreamer. The Orpheum is a long way from its glory days, but Kudrma said that if money isn’t an issue, the grand movie palace will return. “What I would love to do… if I could afford it, would be to restore the theater to as close to its original condition as possible, seating for 1400, a full balcony, a modern parking garage in the back – and bring national acts here to perform.”

Perhaps the second hundred years of the Orpheum may be even better than the first.

By Jason Hedman - Special thanks to the many who helped in this research including Rebecca Chulew, Lisa Henthorn, Kelly Mackay, Jonathan Martens, Paul McDonough, Lou Rugani, JoEllen Storz and Dale “Dr. Destruction” Wamboldt. The author would also like to thank Kathy Bassinger and Anna McGovern for their help.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Blue Mill Theatre on Mar 1, 2022 at 6:16 pm

The glorious 1922 Orpheum Theatre which celebrates 100 years this March 14th was not the first Orpheum in Kenosha. The original Orpheum was located on 56th Street next to the Fischer Hotel, east of Sixth Avenue. It opened on Saturday, September 24, 1910, and in addition to singers and other acts, the theatre touted clear, bright, and beautiful pictures for just five cents (2022 = $1.40).

Kenosha Evening News, October 1910: “The Orpheum Theatre is now equipped to give the public the finest service as a moving picture house,” The Kenosha Evening News read on November 15, 1911. “The very best pictures are the only ones used in this theatre.”

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Cameo Theatre on Mar 1, 2022 at 4:06 pm

(continuing -) To better understand the cinema of the past, a turn to some notion of ‘the popular’ seems a logical step. But determining what ‘the popular’ means is not straightforward. At the very least, popularity has both quantitative and qualitative dimensions, as Janet Thumim observes. Some of the more recent movie histories that have attempted to engage with notions of ‘the popular’ employ a ‘top-down’ approach which considers only the quantitative aspect of the popularity of movies, typically using the trade press as a source of movie rental revenues which are employed as a rough-and-ready index of movie popularity. This approach certainly comes closer to objectivity than simply choosing which films to look at, but it introduces other problems, which mainly arise because of the stratified nature of movie production and distribution under the studio system, and the implications that the structure of these industries had for the revenue-earning potential of movies of different classes.

Simplifying the intricacies of the movie business for the purpose of illustration, the American movie industry produced three broad classes of feature film: prestige ‘A’ movies destined initially for the larger first-run cinemas; lesser ‘B’ movies which either played as supporting features for ‘A’ movies or headlined in smaller cinemas and, finally, what might be thought of as sub-‘B’ feature films — generally from poverty row and independent producers — which played as supporting features in larger cinemas, and/or provided the main feature film or one half of a double feature in smaller independently owned theatres. The contracts under which films were distributed had different rental terms for different classes of movie. So while ‘A’ and some of the better ‘B’ movies were generally rented on a percentage basis that gave the distributor a cut of the actual admissions receipts taken at the box office, the lower classes of movies usually earned a flat fee for each booking (often a very small amount. This flat rental rate effectively functioned as a ‘cap’ on the potential earnings of those movies; it determined the maximum a film could earn from any booking regardless how popular it proved to be with the audience. Furthermore, ‘A’ movies played larger, more prestigious cinemas and thus had the potential to attract larger audiences to each show; audiences that were paying higher prices. The net effect of these typical rental practices was the creation of a commercial environment which was structurally biased in favour of the prestige movies. This bias militates against the use of published revenue figures as a simple index of popularity. A high rental revenue figure for a film only tells us that the film earned a large amount of money. It is true that, generally, it will follow that a film which earned high revenues was widely distributed and popular with moviegoers, but what is missing from this picture is any sense of the qualitative popularity of the lower classes of films, whose earnings were inevitably smaller than those of prestige movies and which are thus effectively excluded from any quantitative measure of popularity based on revenues, but which nevertheless may have possessed a resonance for contemporary audiences. To gain a better sense of what cinemagoers saw and liked, a more nuanced approach to the appraisal of popularity is required.

The case study presented in this article does not purport to resolve all of these difficult issues, but it provides a suggestion of what a more fine-grained method of assessing audience engagement with movies might look like and gives a glimpse at the results that it can achieve.

The study looks at movie exhibition in a single small cinema, The Chief in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1941. It is, therefore, a study on an extremely small scale, and no claim is made that the results of this research can be simply extrapolated to larger scales. On the contrary, the argument made here is that larger-scale patterns of cinemagoing would need to be examined with the same attention to detail as this study. This case study outlines a method and an example; it does not providea simple scalable model. The primary source of data used in the case study is a set of microfilmed copies of the Kenosha Evening News held in the Kenosha Public Library. Cinema advertisements contained in the newspaper list all the films that played each of the city’s cinemas, including all of the supporting features. This permits the development of a detailed picture of what films were playing, where and when. The advertisements do not, however, provide any sense of the size of the audience at the Chief on any given day. For this reason these data are supplemented with box office data obtained from the collection of film billing sheets contained in the Stanley Warner Collection at the Warner Brothers Archive at the University of Southern California. This collection of film billing sheets is not complete, resulting in some gaps in the financial data. However, where available, these documents provide detailed information about the admissions receipts (box office takings) for individual shows and reveal the rentals due from the exhibitor in respect each movie. Finally, in order to provide a way of classifying the films contained in these datasets in terms that are meaningful within film studies, the American Film Institute film catalogue is used to identify the genre of each movie.

 Moviegoing at the Chief Theatre, Kenosha,Wisconsin, 1941.
                

The Chief was a small cinema in downtown Kenosha, an industrial city situated on the Western shore of Lake Michigan between Chicago and Milwaukee. Kenosha had slightly fewer than 49,000 inhabitants by the early forties and was the home of Nash Motors and Jockey, the underwear manufacturer, both of which had large factories in the city, which provided the main sources of employment. Established in 1835, Kenosha had grown considerably in population between the turn of the Twentieth Century and the 1930s as large numbers of immigrants to the USA moved to the city to take up residence and employment. Like the nation as a whole, Kenosha suffered economic and social hardship during the Great Depression but, by the city’s centenary celebrations in 1935, there were signs of recovery and returning confidence, with the local newspaper asserting that ‘Kenosha can look forward to a future of promise’.

Republic 1940: Come on Leathernecks - Republic 1938: Covered Wagon Days - Republic 1940: Damaged Goods - 1937 Dezel: Dance Girl Dance - RKO 1940: Danger Ahead - Monogram 1940: Danger Flight - Monogram 1939: Dangerous Lady - PRC 1941: Death Rides the Range - Superior 1939: Desert Bandit - Republic 1941: Doomed to Die - Monogram 1940: Dreaming Out Loud - RKO 1940: Drums Along the Mohawk - Fox 1939: Drums of the Desert - Monogram 1940: Emergency Landing - PRC 1941: Federal Fugitives - PRC 1941: Flying Deuces - RKO 1939: Footsteps in the Dark - WBFN 1941: Forty Thousand Horsemen and a “Girl” - Teitel 1941: Frontier Crusader - PRC 1940: Fugitive From Justice - WBFN 1940: Gambling Daughters - PRC 1941: Gambling on the High Seas - WBFN 1940: Gambling With Souls - Superior 1936: Gangs of Chicago - Republic 1940: Girl From Havana - Republic 1940: Girls of the Road - Columbia 1940: Girls Under 21 - Columbia 1940: Great Train Robbery : Republic 1941: Haunted Honeymoon - Metro 1940: Hell’s Angels - Astor 1930: Heritage of the Desert - Paramount 1939: Hidden Gold - Paramount 1940: High School Girl - Astor 1934 High Sierra - WBFN 1941: Hit Parade of 1941 - Republic 1940: I Want a Divorce - Paramount 1940: I’m Still Alive - RKO 1940: In Name Only - RKO 1939: Jesse James - Fox 1939: King of the Lumberjacks - WBFN 1940: King of the Newsboys - Republic 1938: Kit Carson - UA 1940: Kitty Foyle - RKO 1940: Knights of the Range - Paramount 1940: Law and Order - Universal 1940: Law of the Pampas - Paramount 1939: Law of the Wolf - Superior 1939: Legion of the Lawless - RKO 1940: Light of Western Stars - Paramount 1940: Lone Wolf Meets a Lady - Columbia 1940:,Marked Men - PRC 1940: Melody and Moonlight - Republic 1940: Men Against the Sky - RKO 1940: Midnight Limited - Monogram 1940: Military Academy - Columbia 1940: Murder in the Air - WBFN 1940: Murder on the Yukon - Monogram 1940: Mutiny on the Elsinore - 1937: Mystery Plane, Monogram - 1939: Notorious But Nice, Astor - 1933: Oklahoma Renegades, Republic - 1940: Only Angels Have Wings, Columbia - 1939: Outside the 3 Mile Limit, Columbia - 1940: Panama Patrol, Superior - 1939: Paper Bullets, PRC - 1941: Penny Serenade, Columbia - 1941: Phantom of Chinatown, Monogram - 1940: Pony Post, Universal - 1940, Pride of the Bowery, Monogram - 1940: Private Detective, WBFN - 1939: Ragtime Cowboy Joe, Universal - 1940: Rain, Astor - 1932: Rancho Grande, Republic - 1940: Robin Hood of the Pecos, Republic - 1941: Rookies on Parade, Republic - 1941: Rustler’s Valley, Paramount - 1937: Saga of Death Valley, Republic - 1939: Santa Fe Marshall, Paramount - 1940: Santa Fe Trail, WBFN - 1940: Savage Gold, Superior - 1933: Scarface, Astor - 1932: Scatterbrain, Republic - 1940: School for Husbands - 1937: Secret Evidence, PRC - 1941: Secret Valley, Superior - 1937: Secrets of a Model, Dezel - 1940: Shadows Over Shanghai, Superior - 1938: Shenandoah Valley Showdown, Paramount - Sinful Souls Sis Hopkins, Republic - 1941: Sky Bandits, Monogram - 1940: Sky Devils, Astor - 1932: Smashing the Money Ring, WBFN - 1939: Smashing the Vice Trust - 1937: Soldier and the Lady, RKO - 1937:Something to Sing About, Superior - 1937: Son of the Navy, Monogram - 1940: South of Panama, PRC - 1941: South of the Border, Republic - 1939: Stagecoach War, Paramount - 1940: Stagecoach War, Paramount - 1940: Strawberry Blonde, WBFN - 1941: Streamline Express, Astor - 1935: Submarine Patrol, Fox - 1938: Swanee River, Fox - 1939: Tear Gas Squad, WBFN - 1940: That Gang of Mine, Monogram - 1940: The Bat Whispers, Astor:- The Crime of Dr. Crespie, Republic 1935 - The Crouching Beast, Superior 1935: The Devil Bat - PRC 1940: The Human Monster - Monogram 1940: The Letter - WBFN 1940: The Lion Has Wings - UA 1939: The Monster Walks - Astor 1932: The Phantom Strikes - Monogram 1938:- The Sea Hawk WBFN, 1940 - The Sea Wolf, WBFN 1941 - The Virgin Bride/The Wrong Road, Republic 1937 - Three Faces West, Republic, 1940 - Tomboy, Monogram, 1940 - Torpedo Raider, Monogram, 1935 Tough Kid, Monogram, 1938 - Trail of the Silver Spurs, Monogram, 1941 -Two Fisted Rangers, Columbia, 1939 - Una Donna Fra Due Mondi,1936 - Under Texas Skies Republic, 1940 - Undercover Agent, Monogram, 1939 - Vampire Bat, Astor, 1933 - Wallaby Jim of the Islands, Superior, 1937 - Winners of the West, Universal, 1940 - Wyoming Outlaw Republic ,1939 - Young Bill Hickock, Republic,1940 - Young Buffalo Bill, Republic, 1940 - Yukon Flight, Monogram, 1940.

 Published in Colin MacCabe. The Eloquence of the Vulgar: Language, Cinema and the Politics of Culture. (London: BFI Publishing, 1999), 147-162. [2] Ibid. [3] See, for example, Balio, T. The American Film Industry. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985); Balio, T. Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939. (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1995); Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960. (London and New York: Routledge, 1988); Thompson, K. and Bordwell, D. Film History: An Introduction, 3rd Edn. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2009); Staiger, J. Interpreting Films: Studies in the Historical Reception of American Cinema. (Princeton: Princeton issue 2, November 2010, Page 310, University Press, 1992); Staiger, J. Perverse Spectators: The Practices of Film Reception. (New York: New York University Press, 2000); Waller, G. Ed. Moviegoing in America: A Sourcebook in the History of Film Exhibition. (Malden MA and Oxford: Blackwell, 2002); Waller G. and Musser, C. Eds Main Street Amusements: Movies and Commercial Entertainment in a Southern City, 1896-1930.(Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995); Gomery, D. Shared Pleasures: A History of Movie Presentation in the United States. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992); Gomery, D. The Hollywood Studio System: A History. (London: BFI Publishing, 2005); Allen, R. and Gomery , D. Film History: Theory and Practice. (New York and London: McGraw Hill, 1985), Klinger, B. Melodrama and Meaning : History, Culture, and the Films of Douglas Sirk. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994); Klinger, B. Beyond the Multiplex : Cinema, New Technologies, and the Home. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006); Maltby, R. and Craven, I. Hollywood Cinema: An Introduction. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995); Stokes, M. and Maltby, R. American Movie Audiences : From the Turn of the Century to the Early Sound Era. (London, BFI Publishing, 1999); Maltby, R., Stokes, M. and Allen, R. Going to the Movies: Hollywood and the Social Experience of Cinema. (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2007); Fuller K. H. At The Picture Show: Small Town Audiences and the Creation of Movie Fan Culture.(Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996); Fuller-Seeley, K. H. Ed. Hollywood in the Neighborhood: Historical Case Studies of Local Moviegoing. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008); Jancovich, M., Faire, L. and Stubbings, S. The Place of the Audience: Cultural Geographies of Film Consumption. (London: BFI Publishing, 2003) and Chapman, J., Glancy, M. and Harper, S. The New Film History: Sources, Methods, Approaches. (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007). [4] Jameson, F. The Political Unconscious. (New York, London: Routledge,2009), 6. [5] Anon., ‘What the Picture Did For Me’, Motion Picture Herald, Vol. 146 No. 1, (3 January 1942), 46. [6] Anon., ‘What the Picture Did For Me’, Motion Picture Herald, Vol. 145 No. 12, (20 December 1941), 66.
                

(At this point it is only fair to note also Kathryn Fuller-Seeley’s observation that reports in ‘What the Picture Did For Me’ were not necessarily particularly representative of those of the general public either.) Fuller-Seeley, K. “What the Picture Did For Me”: Small Town Exhibitors’ Strategies for Surviving the Great Depression’ in Fuller-Seeley, K. (2008); Thumim, J. Celluloid Sisters: Women and Popular Cinema. (Basingstoke and London: Macmillan, 1992). Figures published in Variety and the Motion Picture Herald are typical sources of data for this approach to the measurement of popularity. See, for example, Chopra-Gant, M. Hollywood Genres and Postwar America: Masculinity, Family and Nation in Popular Movies and Film Noir. (London: I B Tauris, 2005).

This is an over-simplification and, particularly, omits a variety of ‘short subjects’, newsreels, cartoons and other material that supported feature films. It is, however, a sufficient account for the purposes of this article and, if anything, the existence of such an array of other material strengthens my argument for the need to examine closely the composition of cinema programs instead of focusing on the major feature films alone. The percentage rate for movies in the former category was variable, depending on the particular terms of each rental contract. Audiences which, incidentally, likely also saw lesser movies as supporting features in these shows. What cinemagoers liked might not always have been films. Live performances, bingo and promotions for consumer goods like dinnerware and books were often part of the cinemagoing experience. The possibility that cinemagoing in itself was a greater attraction for audiences than any particular film represents one of text-based film studies’ great blind spots. For a fuller account of these other pleasures of cinemagoing see Glancy, M. and Sedgwick, J. “Cinemagoing in the United States in the Mid-1930s: A Study Based on the Variety Dataset” in Maltby, R., Stokes, M. and Allen, R. C. Going to the Movies: Hollywood and the Social Experience of Cinema. (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2007). Not all the films in the dataset are listed in the AFI Catalog and in some cases the Internet Movie Database is used as an alternative. In the few cases where neither database has a listing for a film, genre is implied from the advertisement in the Kenosha Evening News. Wright’s Kenosha City Directory. (Milwaukee: Wright Directory Company, 1941), 13. ‘Kenosha’s First Century’ Kenosha Evening News 15 June 1935.

On the other hand it is worth noting that the entry for the cinema on the cinematreasures.org website describes it as having a ‘checkered on-again-off-again history’, so perhaps the difficulties were particular to this cinema. (See, for example, Advertisement for Chief theatre, Kenosha Evening News, 27 March 1941, Advertisement for Chief theatre, Kenosha Evening News, 10 October 1941, Advertisement for Chief theatre, Kenosha Evening News, 8 November 1941, Advertisement for Chief theatre, Kenosha Evening News, 9 November 1941, Advertisement for Chief theatre, Kenosha Evening News, 24 January 1942, Gomery, D. The Hollywood Studio System. (London: BFI Publishing, 1986), As Kevin Heffernan notes, ‘the lucrative first-run theaters … comprised only 15 percent of the total theaters in operation but garnered 70 percent of the nation’s box office receipts’. (Heffernan, K. Ghouls, Gimmicks and Gold: Horror Films and the American Movie Business 1953-1968 (Durham NC and London: Duke University Press, 2004). It is perhaps worth emphasising here that small cinemas such as the Chief did play ‘A’ movies, but only late in their runs, often several years after release. This is certainly consistent with one of the findings of Handel; that almost half of the audience in his study was ‘nonselective’, going to the movies to see ‘any picture’ rather than a particular film. (Handel, L. A. Hollywood Looks at its Audience (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1950), 152-153). This is an area where this study could undoubtedly be improved by more sophisticated methods. Genre classifications in this article have been taken mostly from the American Film Institute listings for the films. The AFC catalogue lists genres individually so that if a movie is a ‘musical comedy’ it is listed as both a musical and a comedy but not as a ‘musical comedy’, which is not, therefore, recognised as a distinct genre in itself. For the purpose of this study it has been difficult to determine how to deal with such cases since it is not always readily apparent what weighting to give to the different components of the generic hybrid: should be given equal weighting where both appear in the catalogue listing, or is the film in question really a musical with a few gags or a comedy with a couple of songs? The compromise adopted has been to simply treat the film as whichever genre the AFC catalogue lists first. This accounts for the surprisingly low number of musicals in this table (most of the films are listed as comedies first). A more sophisticated method of analysis employing a system of weighting generic components for hybrid films would probably change the picture slightly from the one presented in this table. Reviewing the film under its alternate title, ‘Vice Racket’, Variety (19 May 1937), 23 classed the film as a ‘sex piece’. Film Daily (29 April 1937) called it a ‘sex film’ in an article on the banning of such movies in Council Bluffs, Iowa and neighbouring city, Omaha, Nebraska. Films of this type were also often referred to as ‘vice movies’. Unlike many of the films discussed in this article, Gambling With Souls has been released on DVD. Variety (19 May 1937) 23 judged the lead actress’s performance thus: ‘Her drama is atrocious, and her emotional display amusingly hammy. The Chief typically had three runs each week, a midweek, three-day run on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and two ‘weekend’ runs of two days each: Friday/Saturday and Sunday/Monday. It has so far proven impossible to identify this movie. Neither the AFI Film Catalogue nor the IMDB has a reference to it under any title. The only reference to the movie found thus far is in Boxoffice (26 January 1946), which reports that the movie had been rejected by the Chicago censors in 1945, and links the movie to the distributor, Dezel. 1941 Film Billing Sheets for this distributor — in the Warner Brothers Archive — make no reference to this film, however. Possibly it was being distributed by a different company in 1941. (Advertisement for Chief theatre, Kenosha Evening News 25 April 1941, Advertisement for Chief theatre, Kenosha Evening News 28 April 1941) No revenue figures are available for this engagement. Also released under the title Marriage Forbidden. If, as seems likely, word-of-mouth publicity played any part in the success of the two earlier adults only shows then it is quite possible that the midnight preview of Damaged Goods would have been counter-productive. Unlike Gambling With Souls, Damaged Goods contains no explicit scenes, and the fact that it is essentially a morality tale about the risks of contracting venereal disease from casual sexual encounters likely meant that it would have a limited appeal to audiences seeking sex and scandal. Mademoiselle Ma Mere (1936 Decoin France): No box office revenue figures are available. The existence of such a culture would explain the relative lack of popularity of Damaged Goods; a film which — on the face of its publicity — promised similar pleasures to sex films that succeeded in attracting a larger audience. Benoit Mandelbrot. The Fractal Geometry of Nature, San Francisco: Freeman, 1983), Dixon, W. W. ed. American Cinema of the 1940s: Themes and Variations. (Oxford: Berg, 2006) 180-181.

Acknowledgements: The research presented in this essay was made possible by a grant from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (project grant number: 119137). Mike Chopra-Gant is Reader in Media, Culture and Communications at London Metropolitan University. Contact Mike: .uk

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LouRugani commented about Cameo Theatre on Mar 1, 2022 at 3:46 pm

Dirty Movies, or: why film scholars should stop worrying about Citizen Kane and learn to love bad films (Mike Chopra-Gant, London Metropolitan University, UK, Volume 7, Issue 2 (November 2010) Abstract) This article presents an empirical case study of cinema exhibition at a small downtown cinema in an industrial city in the American midwest in the early 1940s. The case study is used to advance an argument that film scholars have too often based their selection of films for study on personal taste, and that film studies has thus evolved around a set of films that does not represent the films which ordinary moviegoers saw and enjoyed. The article argues for the need for film historians to pay greater attention to those films that demonstrably meant something to ordinary cinemagoers in order to produce a more reliable account of the cinema of the past.

In a lecture given in 1992, Colin MacCabe — borrowing an evocative phrase from Dante—spoke of the “eloquence of the vulgar”. ‘Text and society are not separate categories’ argued MacCabe, ‘but ones which mutually illuminate each other’, implicitly calling for an approach to the analysis of cultural ‘texts’ that pays attention to the most commonplace cultural texts andto the social contexts within which such ‘texts’ exist. While there are probably few scholars today working in film and cultural studies who would disagree strongly with this approach, it has more often than not been the case in practice that scholars have been drawn to the exemplary or exceptional in popular culture—auteur cinema,‘quality’ television, cult movies etc. — leaving the most ‘vulgar’, mundane, everyday cultural forms and contexts relatively unexamined.

By way of a case study of cinemagoing and movie exhibition practices in a small Mid-Western city in the early 1940s, this article aims to demonstrate the divergence between the tastes of film scholars and ordinary historical audiences, and show what the analysis of hitherto neglected types of films, and the contexts in which they were consumed, can tell us about cinema andhistorical movie cultures. McCabe’s call for attention to be given to both vulgar ‘text’ and context appears unremarkable at first sight but, on closer examination, it is possible to see that it raises some problems when applied to the artefacts of popular culture and their relationships with the social contexts in which they are produced and consumed; the major problem being that of deciding which texts to look at when trying to obtain a reliable historical sense of the society, the culture, the period weare interested in. There have long been film scholars interested in grounded, historical understandings of films and their contexts. More recently, interest in contextualised understandings of films has grown considerably in importance within academic film studies as the seminal work undertaken by Tino Balio, David Bordwell, Kirsten Thompson, Janet Staiger, Gregory Waller, Douglas Gomery and Robert Allen, to name only a few of the pioneers of film history, has been taken up and advanced by Barbara Klinger, Richard Maltby, Melvin Stokes, Kathryn Fuller-Seeley, Mark Jancovich and Mark Glancy among others. .However, on the whole, historical and contextual interest in movies has been subordinated to the more dominant approach to academic film study, which is predominantly interested in the film as ‘text’, and has approached the study of movies through various theories of textual meaning and methods of textual analysis, often paying little attention to the larger social and cultural contexts in which those movies existed. Thus constituted, this dominant tendency in academic film studies has been built upon the repression of what Fredric Jameson has called the ‘political unconscious’ of the text, and around a framework that he described as a ‘rewriting’ of the meaning of film texts ‘according to the paradigm of another narrative, which is taken as the former’s master code or Ur-narrative and proposed as the ultimate hidden or unconscious meaning’ of the film in question.The dominance of this approach — itself a legacy of the way that film studies evolved historically from within literary study — has had a profound impact on the study of films. Insofar as this article is concerned, it is the way that emphasis on the film ‘text’ has tended to direct scholars’ attention toward a canon (or, more accurately, canons) of exemplary films that is problematic. In this respect one of the more recent developments in film study — and one that, to its credit, does direct attention toward movies ignored by more mainstream film studies —ultimately proves little better that the mainstream approach to which it sets itself in opposition. The growth of academic interest in what is frequently gathered together under the loosely defined and often misleading term ‘cult’ cinema has been one of the most dynamic developments in film study in recent years. However, ‘cult’ is a category that encompasses a broad range of lower grade movies variously alternatively described by scholars as ‘paracinema’ (Sconce),‘trash’ or ‘exploitation’ cinema (Schaeffer), ‘sleaze’ (Hawkins) and ‘body genres’ (Williams). This attention to hitherto neglected movies is to be welcomed, but this way of grouping together a disparate collection of often quite unrelated movies under the banner ‘cult’ (or, indeed, any other banner that might be used) appears to be driven more by a drive to legitimize these movies within a canon of their own; one set in opposition to the mainstream film studies canon, perhaps, but ultimately just another canon derived by particular intellectual processes and priorities rather than the historical realities of ordinary moviegoing. This is, then, a very different project from the one embarked upon in this article, which sets out to achieve the very opposite of canonization; to break down the distinction between one canon and another and reinsert the movies thus liberated from canonical captivity into the ordinary, everyday moviegoing culture of American in the 1940s. It is a central contention of this article that the focus on canons (whether mainstream or oppositional) and their component texts produces — or at least amplifies — a disjuncture between text and society by imposing an inorganic separation between equally artificial classes of films, thus circumnavigating the relationship between ‘text’ and its contexts of consumption, which McCabe rightly suggests is fundamental to the understanding of the ‘text’. Put simply, film studies’ focus on canonical movies raises an important question: can the ‘texts’ carefully selected for attention by a sub-group of ‘society’ that is as unrepresentative of society in general as film scholars undoubtedly are, really ‘illuminate’ much about society and its culture? Citizen Kane (Welles 1941 USA) may well be a preeminent example of the filmmaker’s art and it has certainly received its fair share of praise and critical attention from film scholars, all of which might seem to imply that it should be considered a ‘significant’ film in its time. But contemporary reports from cinema managers suggest a rather different conclusion, commenting that ‘it may be a classic, but it’s plumb “nuts” to your show-going public’ and that ‘we had a good many walkouts and the general consensus of opinion was that it was terrible’. Such reports imply a failure by Citizen Kane to capture the imagination of ordinary audiences at the time of its release and thus problematise any suggestion that it should be thought of as particularly emblematic of the cinema of its time. By extension, the same point could be made more generally of film studies’ canons of exemplary movies: they are the product of the tastes of an exceptional group (or groups) and, as such, reveal little about the ordinary, everyday dimensions of cinema in the past. If film scholars’ tastes can provide little insight into the preferences and practices of ordinary cinemagoers, then, the question arises again: how do we determine which ‘texts’ will illuminate the society that those cinemagoers inhabited?

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LouRugani commented about Orpheum Theatre on Feb 18, 2022 at 10:26 pm

March 14th, 2022 marks the Orpheum Theatre’s Centennial. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2134366280053291&id=100004398180010&sfnsn=mo

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LouRugani commented about Keno Drive-In on Feb 12, 2022 at 10:45 pm

The box office and numerous other artifacts have indeed been removed but are in the Pleasant Prairie Historical Society collection.

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LouRugani commented about Central Park Theatre on Feb 11, 2022 at 3:44 pm

Harry Silverstein, about 25, was shot and killed at the rear of the Central Park Theatre on January 4, 1931. An ex-employee named Rappaport, 20, was on the back of the stage that night with electrician Herbert Imlach, Irving Riffkind and Robert Ross. About 8:30 P. M. a Bob Lewis approached Rappaport to say that Silverstein was outside and that Rappaport went to the stage door and that two shots were heard. Witnesses rushed down to see Silverstein grappling with Rappaport, who ran away to be apprehended at Mansfield, Ohio in February, 1935. He claimed self-defense, great fear of Silverstein, and a history of attacks by Silverstein from high school on combined with death threats without justification. Silverstein was 5'10" tall and weighed 180 pounds, while Rappaport was 5'5" and weighed but 115 pounds.

On the night of the homicide, Rappaport testified that he and some others played cards in the theatre for awhile and he later played solitaire. When made aware that Silverstein was present, he ran to the stage door, opened it and stepped into the alley where he was felled with a powerful blow and that they grappled; that the gun was in the pocket of his coat; that Troubles tore the pocket and the gun fell on the ground; that they both reached for it and in the struggle the gun was discharged; that he believed he was in danger of great bodily harm from Silverstein; that he did not see Ross, Riffkind or Imlach there at that time; that he left the gun on the ramp where it dropped after the shooting; that he immediately ran away, went to New York, assumed the name of Milton Stein, and traveled with a New York salesman through five or six states until he was arrested at Mansfield, Ohio. Riffkind testified that the noise of shots was a part of the picture then playing in the theatre.

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LouRugani commented about HOLLYWOOD (Butterfly) Theatre; Kenosha, Wisconsin. on Feb 7, 2022 at 6:01 pm

Kenosha Evening News, Friday, May 9, 1941, Page 17.

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LouRugani commented about La Vogue Theatre on Feb 4, 2022 at 3:26 pm

(March 22, 1940) - New Streamlined Vogue Theater Opens Tomorrow Under Management of Nick Coston

Theater is Ready for Opening After Extensive Streamline Remodeling

The new modernistic Vogue theater opens tomorrow! Electricians, carpenters, painters and workmen have been busy all week completing their work in preparation for the gala opening tomorrow evening at 6 pm. L. F. Gran, general manager of Standard theaters operating the Kenosha, Gateway and new Vogue theaters, said today “We believe the people of Kenosha will like the modernistic streamlined new Vogue theater. We have spared no expense in modernizing the Vogue. The interior has been redecorated in bright new soft colors, seats reupholstered and new indirect lighting fixtures installed. We are especially proud of the new modernistic Vogue canopy which has the latest streamlined new-type neon lighting. This we believe will brighten and add a great deal to the neighborhood. Standard theaters new policy for the Vogue will be to give the people of Kenosha the very best in select double feature entertainment. The first week’s attractions booked for the gala opening I am sure will indicate the type of outstanding double feature entertainment we intend to give the Vogue theater patrons. We are proud of the new Vogue and we want the people to be.”

Plan Special “Family Nights”

Nick Coston, manager, declared everything is in readiness for the gala opening Saturday. The Saturday opening-day program will be Laurel and Hardy in “Flying Deuces” and Gene Autry in "Mexicali Rose”. For Easter Sunday and Monday the double feature attraction is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” with James Stewart and Jean Arthur, and "Another Thin Man” with William Powell and Mvrna Loy. Special feature attractions will be booked for every Tuesday and Wednesday, the "second date” of the week Mr Coston said. This Tuesday and Wednesday’s attractions are “Allegheny Uprising” wuth John Wayne and Claire Trevor and "Fast and Furious” with Ann Sothern and Franchot Tone. One of the highlights of the new Vogue policy will be family nights every Thursday and Friday. Special low admission prices will prevail on these nights and entertainment especially selected fpr family-fare will be shown. The attractions for next Thursday and Friday’s family nights will be "The Roaring Twenties” with James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Humphrey Bogart and Frank McHugh.

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LouRugani commented about KENOSHA Theatre; Kenosha, Wisconsin. on Jan 31, 2022 at 4:55 pm

EXHIBITORS HERALD: October 1, 1927.

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LouRugani commented about La Vogue Theatre on Jan 28, 2022 at 4:41 pm

(Thursday, March 25, 1926) - First Day of Broadcasting Is a Success City Manager Dedicates Radio Station WHBL to Service of Community

Kenosha is at last being given an opportunity to broadcast to the world what it is and what its people are like. As “the Better City”, Kenosha is being brought to the fore by its city officials, its civic leaders and by its entertainers until the entire middle west will learn what it means to be in a happy peace-loving law-abiding community.

Dedicated to “the service and enlightenment of the community:, Station WHBL, the Kenosha Evening News-Vogue theater was formally presented to the atmosphere in Kenosha on Wednesday, and the results of the first day’s program are still being counted in the scores of congratulatory messages that are coming in to the station.

City Manager Opens Station

The formal dedication was performed by C. M. Osborn, city manager who, in his official capacity, invited the city of Kenosha to share in the opportunity presented by giving out into the air the pride which the city holds in its own community. The variety of the opening program Wednesday afternoon and evening and the quality of the entertainment offered by the Kenosha artists and the members of the studio staff was on a par with that offered by broadcasting stations everywhere and as the station continues on its stay in Kenosha it will offer more distinctive features and more unique departures from the ordinary radio programs.

Strikes a Popular Chord

The opportunity presented to local people to broadcast local talent such as that which is being done on the programs presented by the music departments of the city schools, the professional music schools, and those who have had long training in the musical arts is a unique one in Kenosha, and there have been many thus far who have shown that they are quick to take advantage of this opportunity. One of the features of Station WHBL during the eight days which it will broadcast from the stage of the Vogue theater will be that which will present officially the educational and physical side of the city life. Men who are leaders in the various walks of life in Kenosha will be presented, such as was started on Wednesday when City Manager Osborn, J. M. Albers, secretary of the city plan commission, and Guy F. Loomis, superintendent of schools addressed the radio audience on the city manager plan of government and Kenosha’s school system respectively.

Learn of Your Own City

To many Kenoshans, facts disclosed in these radio addresses will be new and most interesting and the entire programs thus broadcast will be of benefit to all who listen in. There is place on each of the programs for something of interest to all who listen in from the youngest kiddies to the oldest grown-ups. Throughout all of the broadcasting there is the opportunity given to Kenosha to see how the work is actually done. The station apparatus is the last word in radio engineering and the entire broadcasting studio is located on the stage of the Vogue theater. The wave length of the station is 2157 meters which places it on the dials between “WOK and WSBS in Chicago. It is powerful enough to be heard comfortably within a range of 700 miles and the station now operating in Kenosha has been heard from as far west as Denver and as far east as Pittsburgh with its southern extremity for reception reaching to the gulf coast.

All Talent On Stage

The entire public is invited to watch and take part in the broadcasting of the Kenosha programs from WHBL. Its three schedules during the day are from noon until one o’clock, from 5:30 to 6:30 o’clock, and from ll:OO o’clock until midnight. The early afternoon program is broadcast directly from the stage and the public is invited to find seats in the audience to look on. A special invitation is extended by the management of the Vogue theater to those Kenoshans who desire to see the regular performance of the theater program during the evening performances and who then wish to go to their homes and tune in to hear the same programs broadcast into their own receiving sets. Because of the limited assignment of broadcasting hours by the federal government no broadcasting can be done between 6:30 o’clock and 11:00 o’clock in the evening. And in another column on this page is explained the details which make it possible for anyone to take an actual part in the broadcasting — to appear before the microphone. This offer will be withdrawn as soon as the programs are made up sufficiently in advance to cover the entire stay of the station in Kenosha and it is urged that those who desire to broadcast fill in the coupon at once.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about VOGUE Theatre lobby, Kenosha, Wisconsin on Jan 26, 2022 at 9:55 pm

About 1948.

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LouRugani commented about Oasis Theatre on Jan 24, 2022 at 3:26 pm

Martin S. Tullgren was the architect.

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LouRugani commented about Hollywood Theatre on Jan 21, 2022 at 5:14 pm

(Saturday, May 10, 1941) - New Theater Will Open Tonight

With the gala opening of the new Hollywood theater tonight, Kenosha will welcome her eighth motion picture house. Michael Lencioni, who has been the manager of the Lincoln theater for the past three years, is owner and manager of the new Hollywood.

The Hollywood is located at 4902 Seventh avenue where the Butterfly theater once operated. However, for the opening tonight the building has been completely renovated and redecorated. The interior is done in maroon, cream and orchid and the sidelights are rainbow colored fixtures which may be changed to any color desired. Self-rising seats will be another innovation chosen by Mr. Lencioni for the comfort and convenience of patrons and a new mirraphonic sound system is a feature of the new theater. Motion pictures will be unreeled upon a new processed screen with a highly reflective surface which has the added virtue of being exceptionally easy on the eyes. A modernistic canopy will greet movie patrons as they approach the Hollywood, and new draperies and carpets will add to the attractiveness of the interior.

The new theater will be open every evening, and for Sunday and holiday matinees Mr Lencioni, who was born in Kenosha, made his home here until he moved to Sheboygan Falls to manage a theater. Three years ago he returned here to manage the Lincoln. During the past week his many friends in the city have extended their best wishes for success in his new venture.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about Lincoln Theatre on Jan 21, 2022 at 5:05 pm

(November 2, 1932) - Reopen Lincoln Theater Friday - Management of Butterfly Takes Over Second Theater

The Lincoln theater on Fourteenth Avenue, redecorated and remodeled, will be opened Friday, Nov, 7 by Samuel Levinsohn and Harry Vogel who recently took over the Butterfly theater. Sound equipment has been installed in the Lincoln which was previously used for silent pictures and has been closed for some time.

Acoustical Treatment

The walls of the theater interior have been treated with acoustical padding such as is used in a large number of modern theaters and numerous other improvements have been made. The Lincoln will be run on the same policy as the Butterfly. There will be double feature programs changing four times a week. E. D. Harris is the manager.

LouRugani
LouRugani commented about La Vogue Theatre on Jan 7, 2022 at 4:07 pm

First Day of Broadcasting Is a Success | City Manager Dedicates Radio Station WHBL to Service of Community —- Kenosha is at last being given an opportunity to broadcast to the world what it is and what its people are like. As “the Better City”, Kenosha being brought to the fore by its city officials, its civic leaders and by its entertainers until the entire middle west will learn what it means to in a happy peace-loving law-abiding community. Dedicated to “the service and enlightenment of the community", Station WHBL, the Kenosha Evening News-Vogue theater was formally presented to the atmosphere in Kenosha on Wednesday and the results of the first day’s program are still being counted in the scores of congratulatory messages that are coming in to the station. City Manager Opens Station The formal dedication was performed by C. M. Osborn, city manager, who in his official capacity invited the city of Kenosha to share in the opportunity presented by giving out into the air the pride which the city holds in its own community. The variety of the opening program Wednesday afternoon and evening and the quality of the entertain ment offered by the Kenosha artists and the members of the studio staff was on a par with that offered by broadcasting stations everywhere and as the station continues on its stay m Kenosha it will offer more distinctive features and more unique departures from the ordinary radio programs. Strikes a Popular Chord The opportunity presented to local people to broadcast local talent such as that which is being done on the programs presented by the music departments of the city schools, the professional music schools and those who have had long training in the musical arts is a unique one in Kenosha and there have been many thus far who have shown that they are quick to take advantage of this opportunity. One of the features of Station WHBL during the eight days which it will broadcast from the stage of the Vogue theater will be that which will present officially the educational and physical side of the city life. Men who are leaders in the various walks of life in Kenosha will be presented such as was started on Wednesday when City Manager Osborn, J. M. Albers, secretary of the city plan commission and Guy F. Loomis, superintendent of schools addressed the radio audience on the city manager plan of government and Kenosha’s school system respectively. Learn of Your Own City To many Kenoshans, facts disclosed in these radio addresses will be new and most interesting and the entire programs thus broadcast will be of benefit to all who listen in. There is a place on each of the programs for something of interest to all who listen in from the youngest kiddies to the oldest grown-ups. Throughout all of the broadcasting there is the opportunity given to Kenosha to see how the work is actually done. The station apparatus is the last word in radio engineering and the entire broadcasting studio is located on the stage of the Vogue theater. The wave length of the station is 2157 meters (1390 Khz) which places it on the dials between WOK and WSBS in Chicago. It is powerful enough to be heard comfortably within a range of 700 miles and the station now operating in Kenosha has been heard from as far west as Denver and as far east as Pittsburgh with its southern extremity for reception reaching to the gulf coast. All Talent On Stage The entire public is invited to watch and take part in the broadcasting of the Kenosha programs from WHBL; Its three schedules during the day are from noon until one o’clock, from 5:30 to 630 o’clock and from ll’00 o’clock until midnight The early afternoon program is broadcast directly from the stage and the public is invited to find seats in the audience to look on. A special invitation is extended by the management of the Vogue theater to those Kenoshans who desire to see the regular performance of the theater program during the evening performances and who then wish to go to their homes and tune in to hear the same programs broadcast into their own receiving sets. Because of the limited assignment of broadcasting hours by the federal government, no broadcasting can be done between 6:30 o’clock and 11:00 o’clock in the evening. And in another column on this page is explained the details which make it possible for anyone to take an actual part in the broadcasting — to appear before the microphone. This offer will be withdrawn as soon as the programs are made up sufficiently in advance to cover the entire stay of the station in Kenosha and it is urged that those who desire to broadcast fill in the coupon at once. (Kenosha News, Thursday, 25 Mar 1926)