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The NORTHERN LAKES was called the HAPPY HOUR Theatre in the early 1920s.
Modjeska Theatre hopes for March opening
By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel – Jan. 23, 2016
Milwaukee’s Modjeska Theatre, which has been undergoing cleanup and renovations for the past two years, plans to reopen in March.
But the theater, a longtime fixture on the city’s south side, initially will not show films.
Instead, it will host mainly concerts and other live events before eventually adding movies to the lineup, said Jesus Nanez, who will help operate the Modjeska, 1134 W. Historic Mitchell St.
“Our vision is that it will be a multiuse venue,” said Nanez, a part owner of Modjeska Theatre Co., which is leasing the theater portion of the building.
The two-story building, including the theater and retail storefronts, is owned by Modjeska Theatre Project LLC, an affiliate of Mitchell Street Development Opportunity Corp., a nonprofit group.
That group in 2014 began removing garbage and debris from the theater, while raising money to renovate the building. It has been closed since 2010.
The group’s members initially planned to open the Modjeska in fall 2014. The work, including fundraising, has taken longer than expected, said Nanez, a commercial broker with Kesselman Real Estate.
However, he said, “There’s definitely been a lot of progress.”
Most of the cleanup work is done. The stage has been altered to open up the orchestra pit. Also, the heating and power systems are being upgraded, Nanez said, and the sprinkler system is being repaired.
Once the building has heat and the power is fully operating, work can more easily proceed on painting the interior and doing plaster repairs. Some of that work has already occurred, he said.
Those initial projects will cost around $200,000. A full restoration of the Modjeska would cost an estimated $5 million, Nanez said.
The restoration, which could include financing through state and federal historic preservation tax credits, would include exterior renovations, such as a new marquee. Engberg Anderson Architects has been providing volunteer work for that possible redesign, he said.
“The historic renovation is definitely some years away,” Nanez said. “We need to get open and get the ball rolling. … I don’t have a Pabst Theater standard of what it should look like.”
Another future project includes removing the bottom floor seats.
Those seats, which are likely over 30 years old, are in poor shape, he said.
They will be replaced with removable chairs and cocktail tables to create cabaret seating. The second-floor seats will remain.
“We will be able to accommodate large banquets with a one-of-a-kind venue,” Nanez said.
Attracting live events creates a revenue source for the Modjeska, said Nanez, a professional musician who has relationships with show promoters. His gigs have included drumming for the Milwaukee group Vic and Gab.
The theater will seek a tavern license so it can serve beer, wine and cocktails at live events, Nanez said. While a regular film schedule isn’t part of the near-term plan, the Modjeska could host the Milwaukee Short Film Festival this September.
Last year’s festival was held at ComedySportz, 420 S. 1st St., and drew around 1,000 people over two days, said Bill Quirmbach, co-director. He said a final decision for the 2016 venue will likely be made in April.
“We’re very encouraged” by the prospect of locating at the Modjeska, Quirmbach said. He said the festival would bring its own projection and sound equipment, sparing the theater that expense.
Nanez said the Modjeska also might eventually convert one of the retail storefronts into an attached bar and restaurant, similar to Bay View’s Avalon Theater, which reopened in 2014.
“It’s really got great potential,” he said.
The Modjeska opened in 1925 and was used for both films and vaudeville performances. It stopped regular movie showings in 1989.
Two years later, the building was sold to Stewart and Diane Johnson, who started the Modjeska Youth Theatre Company. Their nonprofit group staged amateur productions such as “Annie” and “West Side Story.”
Also, the theater was used for professional shows, including performances by David Byrne, Alice in Chains, Gregg Allman, Rob Zombie, Nanci Griffith, Marilyn Manson and They Might Be Giants.
In December 2006, the Johnsons sold the theater for $450,000 to Modjeska Theater Project, a partnership between the youth theater company and Mitchell Street Development Opportunity Corp.
But the youth theater company’s revenue couldn’t cover its expenses, and that group folded in April 2010. That left Mitchell Street DOC with the building.
The Modjeska’s renovations are among a series of nearby new real estate investments.
They include the conversion of the former Goldmann’s Department Store, 930-932 W. Historic Mitchell St., into the new home of the Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center; the upcoming conversion of the historic Hills Building, 906-910 W. Historic Mitchell St., into a new Milwaukee Public Library branch and 57 market-rate apartments, and next weekend’s opening of Mitchell Street Marketplace, a neighborhood grocery at 1101 W. Historic Mitchell St.
The HUDSON Theatre was at 205 Locust Street in Hudson, Wisconsin and closed on July 30, 1984, leaving Hudson without a movie theater for the first time in more than 75 years until December, 1989 when the new Southside Cinema 4 opened (later expanded to nine screens and renamed Hudson Cinema 9). In the early 1900s, Hudson had two theatres, the GEM at 501 Second Street and the THEATER DELIGHT at 220 Locust Street. The GEM didn’t last long, but the THEATER DELIGHT survived under the leadership of A. Johnson and later L.H. Clark. In 1917, Clarence “Showhouse” Mickelson purchased the THEATER DELIGHT and by 1921 built the REX Theatre building at 220 Locust Street which evolved into all the later theatres in Hudson.
In 1938 Mickelson sold the REX to J.G. Heywood of New Richmond and E.L. Peaslee of Stillwater; they renamed it the HUDSON and operated it until 1947 when they sold it to Arthur and Ethel Peterson of Kenyon, Minnesota. Their son-in-law Alfred J. Bergmann managed the HUDSON until moving to Ashland in 1961 when his son-in-law Harry Swanson (1943-1984) took over for the next decade or so. In 1969, the HUDSON Theatre building was sold to the State Bank of Hudson (later Wells Fargo Bank). At some time in the early 1970s the HUDSON was sold to Mark Pallas, who in July 1976 sold it to Henry Sampson, Paul Zipf and Don Buchholz (the latter managing) until 1982, when the HUDSON was sold to Hudson native Steve O'Connell who closed it on July 30, 1984. O'Connell said “Up until that time, our only competition were single-screen theaters in neighboring towns like River Falls, Stillwater or New Richmond.” Stillwater got a six-screen theater in the early 1980s, giving the HUDSON more competition. (The Stillwater theatre later was the victim of fancier theatres in nearby Oakdale, Woodbury and North St. Paul.)
“If a theatre wanted to run a new blockbuster beginning on opening weekend, the numbers were vicious,” O'Connell said. “For example, we would have had to pay maybe $5,000 to $10,000 up front. During the first week or two, the Hollywood studio would take 80 percent of the take. During the third and fourth week they would take 70 and then maybe 60 percent. In a community like Hudson, however, it was tough to keep a movie four weeks. And, if after four weeks I had taken in only $3,000 or $4,000, I was stuck. New movies were just too risky. I opened one of the first releases in Hudson in a couple of decades. It was one of the Superman movies.”
Steve praised competitor Stan McCullough of River Falls, who had an advantage over other theatres in being a film agent. “Stan was a great guy and was a great businessman. He was a booker who had control over 30 or 40 theaters so he could get copies of new releases.” He said McCullough tried to convince him to book “ET” for opening-weekend release. “He knew it was going to be a blockbuster when blockbusters really existed. Now everything is a blockbuster — for about a week. I should have taken Stan’s advice on ‘ET.’” The HUDSON finally ran “ET” 12 weeks after it opened in River Falls and still had a good three-week run. “We usually ran movies that were fairly safe. After three or four weeks we knew if they were successful and we could get them at a more attractive percentage. Always know that Hollywood studios are going to get the most money. That’s why selling concessions has become such an important part of the theatre business.”
He said theatre owners are often referred to as glorified popcorn vendors. “No one knows if a theater is going to make it on a movie when they pay such a premium to get a new movie,” and that studios keep precise records on every theatre across the country.
“I enjoyed my days in the theater business, however,” O'Connell said. “I remember if a movie was a little short I’d run a cartoon before the movie. People loved that because in the old days there was always a cartoon first.” the HUDSON was charging about $2 to $2.50 in its final days. At the time, the Twin Cities theaters were charging $4 or $4.50. “You’d be surprised how some people wouldn’t come to our theater because they thought we were showing an edited version of the movie because we didn’t charge as much.”
The Hudson Theatre Building was demolished to allow a bank expansion. With it went some of Hudson’s connection to the golden years of Hollywood.
The MAJESTIC Theatre opened on March 20, 1914 by David Burke with a Mary Pickford feature and the play “Quo Vadis” in eight acts. Its front was mission brick with 13 electric lights. Dark oak covered the outer lobby which had a natural wood foyer. A French beveled mirror was at the exit. There were 320 seats, a 12' x 20' stage with a 12' x 14' proscenium and three drops portraying a street, a garden and a parlor. The booth was 8' x 10'. At its opening there was also a ballroom, bowling alleys and a separate stage for class plays and community events, all closed by the 1940s. A dairy promotion allowed free admission to those bringing in enough red handles from Pleck’s milk.
In September of 1925 the MAJESTIC added 225 seats and had a total of five bowling alleys. The stage was enlarged, dressing rooms were added, projection lenses were replaced and a new organ was installed. The Wednesday evening shows offered glassware along with the five-cent admission.
Algoma’s MAJESTIC Theatre was demolished for the rebuilding of the Community State Bank.
Nothing was ever built on this site afterwards.
September 9, 1922: EXHIBITORS TRADE REVIEW
The added matinee, not a regular feature of the house and some of the poster work responsible for the turnout.
Plays Extended Engagement on a Third Run – Campaign Results in First Capacity Houses in Months
The Virginian Theatre, Kenosha, Wis., played to capacity for three days and in response to popular enthusiasm held the show over for a fourth, as a result of a campaign complete in every detail of modern exploitation methods.
The efficacy of the campaign may be judged from the fact that the Virginian hung out its S. R. 0. sign for the first time during the summer on the opening night of a icture that was playing its third run in the town.
The feature attraction was “The Sheik;” the campaign was carried out by Mrs. Lillian Collins, who directs the Virginian, with the assistance of R. C. Gary, Paramount exploiteer.
The campaign opened with teaser ads run for two days in the Milwaukee Journal. These read: Girls take notice
Rudolph is coming! Romance will be found here next when you see Rudolph make love to Agnes. And on the second
day the ads announced the play dates of “The Sheik” at the Virginian. The newspaper, which has wide distribution in Kenosha, printed a reading notice.
SPECIAL MATINEE, WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON
A Paramount Picture
The Paramount exploiteer then started to concentrate on the people of the town. He obtained the privilege of posting signs on the window of a hotel on the main street. These announced that on the opening night
autographed photographs of Valentino would be given free to the ladies attending.
The next inducement offered was a booklet entitled “What I Know About Women” by Rudolph Valentino. This offer was for the second night. Shortly after the posters announcing this latter gift were displayed, the theatre began receiving telephone calls for the booklet and it was estimated that over 300 requests of this nature had been received over the telephone before the evening performance. The booklets were enclosed in an envelope stamped “For Married People Only.” The booklet was about two inches square when folded. On the front cover was the title “What I Know About Women” and on the back the name of the theatre. Inside were two clean, white, blank pages.
PEOPLE OF KENOSHA— GREETINGS
FROM RODOLPH VALENTINO
25 & 10
WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM
July 23 1922
Mrs Lillian K Collins Manager Virginian TheatreKenosha Wis
Believe The Sheik to be one of my best picturee Stop Hope my Kenosha friends like my photograps stop hope to have the pleasure of spending a day at Kenosha
this fall 3 with best wishes
1000 booklets “What I Know About Women,”
by Rodolph Valentino
We endorse this picture to be a great and unusual production and evidences the remarkable ability of Rodulph Valentino “The Screen’s Greatest Lover” and
popular celebrity. Manager— VIRGINIAN THEATRE
LAST TIMES TONIGHT
Kenosha Folks Captured and Carried Away
ASK YOUR FRIENDS — THEY SAW IT.
That’s what happened to the countless hundreds who saw
RODOLPH VALENTINO “The Screen’s Greatest Lover” IN
“THE SHEIK” A PARAMOUNT SPECIAL.
NOTE: — This is the last time this screen sensation will be shown in Kenosha. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT — DON’T MISS IT!
“WHAT I KNOW ABOUT WOMEN” By Rodolph Valentino
This Booklet Given Free to the First 1,000 Ladies Attending the Virginian Tonight ^-Come Early and Get Yours.
Two-column ads were liberally used for a week previous and during the run of the picture.
September 16, 1922: Kenosha’s East Indian Organist
Turbaned Player Attracts Much Attention at Console of Orpheum Organ
Saxe Brothers' Orpheum Theatre in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Dr. Hyland Elman Slatre-Witson, East Indian organist, at the three manual Barton Orchestra Organ.
About ten years ago Dr. Slatre-Wilson returned to the United States with the internationally famous Dr. John Alexander Dowie of Zion City, Illinois. Dr. Dowie at that time was building the Zion City tabernacle and planned to install one of the best pipe organs in the
United States to be used in connection with a large choir and extensive musical festivals. Dr. Slatre-Wilson was placed in charge of the organ selection and
installation and himself designed one of the best
cathedral organs in the United States, which even now is a famous feature of Zion City. The organizatibn and establishment of the great Zion City Choir, whose
singing has brought pleasure to hundreds of thousands in dozens of cities, was also a work of Dr. Slatre-Wilson.
Moving to Kenosha, Wisconsin, Dr. Slatre-Wilson founded the Conservatory of Music, which he conducted with great success, until the opening of the Orpheum when he took his place at the console of the organ installed there. The combination of Dr. Slatre-Wilson’s musical skill and
the versatile three manual organ has captivated Kenosha’s music loving movie goers, and the Orpheum is crowded daily and nightly. The melodies pouring from
the dozens of throats of the Barton organ in response to the touch of Dr. Slatre-Wilson’s gifted fingers is a revelation.
In explanation of the intricate improvisations and tonal gradations with which Dr. Slatre-Wilson delights Orpheum audiences, he modesty gives great credit to the
divided manual. “I was greatly surprised,” he says, “to find that in spite of the fact that more tonal combinations and a richer expression are possible than I have ever been able to find heretofore, I was able to
play it readily on sight, without a minute of study and I find it a constant inspiration in my daily striving to gain further mastery of organ playing.”
Much interest has been aroused in Kenosha, Wisconsin, by the appointment of Dr. Hyland Eiman Slatre-Wilson to
preside at the big three manual Barton orchestral organ installed in Saxe Brothers' half-million dollar Orpheum Theatre.
Dr. Slatre-Wilson is one of the best educated musicians in the United States. His education was begun in the public schools of Syracuse, New York and continued at
the college of the City of New York, the State University of New York and under such masters of music as Leschetizky, Marescalchi, Consolo, Vitale and others in piano, violin, voice orchestration and composition.
From his youth Dr. Slatre-Wilson took up the study of the organ and at the age of fifteen became city organist of the All-India University of Bombay, India, his native land. For the succeeding few years he was one of the leaders of the Bast Indian musical world. He organized the 150 piece Emin D'Nalyh Orchestra, named after
him. (Emin D'Nalyh is Dr. Slatre-Wilson’s
Fuller’s Orchestra (piano, banjo, saxophone and drums) was the musical ensemble. Helena Stemm accompanied film programs.
Aisle Two, the most-used entrance into the auditorium.
This isn’t the KENOSHA Theatre …
The 1-½ story 24x125' LION Theatre was built by Gust Tompary (3004 S. Park Ave) for owner Louis A. Katsera 0f 1708 W. 18th Street. The architect was A. B. Mills of 2341 Milwaukee Ave.
This was a 50x150' 1-story theatre building built for owner C. J. Moe by Grossman & Proskauer of 117 N. Dearborn Street.
The architectural firm was Hall and Westerlind of 179 W. Washington Street. The builder/owner was a Mr. Edelman. Cost of construction: $15,000.
The July 20, 1912 CONSTRUCTION NEWS lists a 1-story 100x60 theatre under construction at 6906-14 N. Clark owned by Tagney and Hudson with Edward Benson of 3204 N. Clark as architect and a seating capacity of 288.
The July 20, 1912 CONSTRUCTION NEWS said the building measured 24x138, the owner was Max Nichol at 1170 Milwaukee Ave., and the architect was M. F. Strauch of 1435 Diversey Parkway. G. C. Schmitt was the general contractor, of 5825 Henry St., Austin.
The July 13, 1912 CONSTRUCTION NEWS said the 4-story 130x160 AVENUE Theatre building was built by scrap-iron dealers Israel and Samuel Lanski of 2117 S. Jefferson St. to also include a pre-leased Chinese restaurant, Turkish bath and bowling alleys. The architect was Bishop & Co. Seating was listed at 1,500.
Chicago Tribune, October 27, 2015: “When Richard S. Stern talked about movies, it was clear to anyone who listened that he was in love with everything about them; their history, their stars, their distribution, and the art of knowing when a film would be a hit with moviegoers, son Mark Stern remembered Oct. 26. The passion Stern brought to his chosen profession extended to Academy Awards nights, when his family would sit in front of the television to see if the movies he predicted as winners would take home Oscars, said Mark Stern, himself a theater owner in Seattle. "We would watch the Oscar telecast, and when they would announce the winners and my dad’s predictions were right, we would jump up and high-five each other,” Mark Stern said. The elder Stern used that acumen for 40 years to make the Wilmette Theatre, 1122 Central Ave., in downtown Wilmette, a destination for both Wilmette residents who saw the venue as their neighborhood theater, and for lovers of art and foreign films, Mark Stern said.
Stern, 84, a 52-year resident of Niles, was killed Oct. 23 after being struck by an SUV while walking across West Golf Road in Niles shortly past 6 a.m. that day.
Without Richard Stern’s four-decade long stewardship of the theater – and his decision to sell it to four community activists instead of a furniture store owner who had put in an earlier offer – downtown Wilmette would be a less artistically rich place, said his son and two of the people who succeeded Stern as the theater’s owners. “My father had a great impact on Wilmette, by bringing really good quality cinema to a sleepy little downtown,” Stern said. “There were high times and low times, but when you would see the lines on many nights, one of the exciting things would be to say ‘Sold out!’ and to know your choice resonated with the theater goers.” “He really saved it,” Wilmette resident Carole Dibo said Oct. 26, as she remembered the man who bought the Wilmette Theatre in 1966 and sold it to her and three other community investors in 2006. “He was one of a kind. He believed with every cell in his body in what he was doing. Not many of us can say we love what we’re doing the way he did.”
Richard Stern, who grew up in Oak Park, was born into a family of movie theater owners, Mark Stern said. Richard’s father, Henry Stern, was credited with making the Cinema Theater, at Michigan and Chicago avenues, the first art film theater house in Chicago, he said. Richard Stern was already the owner and manager of other Chicago theaters when he starting eyeing the Wilmette market in the 1960s, Mark Stern said. When he learned that the shuttered Wilmette Theatre, then owned by Encyclopedia Britannica Films and used by that company for film shoots, was for sale, he made an offer and was told he had a week to come up with more than $100,000. He asked his father for a loan, and bought the property, Mark Stern said.
Stern was as generous with others as Henry Stern had been with him, Mark Stern said: “He’s the type of guy that would literally get food sent to your door if he knew you were hungry. He’d give you money, not lend you money. He was big-hearted and generous.”
After renovating the theater and turning it into a two-screen operation, Stern decided to sell the business, Dibo said. He had a prospective buyer when she, her husband David Dibo, and two others, Sam and Judy Samuelson of Evanston, approached him, David Dibo said Oct. 26. Stern eventually sold to the foursome, who later turned the building’s operation into a nonprofit organization. “He was a very tenacious businessman and he wanted the highest price for sure,” David Dibo said. “On the other hand, he really loved the art of the film. …The appreciation of the artistic side really drove him, maybe almost against his basic business instincts.”
“When he wiggled out of that (furniture store) deal, he did it so he could sell it, and it would still would be an entertainment destination,” Carole Dibo said. She said Stern continued to visit the theater, talk about the film business, and even give advice, which she said often proved useful.
In addition to his son Mark, Stern is survived by a second son, Scott, of Evanston, and a brother, Laurence, of Glenview, as well as three grandchildren. His wife, Marlene C. Stern, died in 2011. His funeral service was set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4 at Chicago Jewish Funerals Chapel, 8851 Skokie Blvd. in Skokie, with burial in Shalom Memorial Park. Memorial donations can be made to the Hadassah organization, 60 Revere Drive, Suite 800, in Northbrook and at www.hadassah.org/chicago-northshore, Mark Stern said."
Bas-relief of President Theodore Roosevelt on south façade over stairway entrance to upstairs offices.
The ROOSEVELT Theatre was built as a portion of a larger business block erected by Einar Dahl. Original plans indicate that the overall building design was drawn by August Wolff of the Milwaukee firm of Wolff & Ramsthal. Revisions to the theater proper were noted as having been done by Kenosha architect Charles O. Augustine. The theater opened to the public on Christmas Day, 1927. The last movie was shown in mid=March, 1985 and the building was vacant since 1997.
Bibliographic References: Kenosha City Directory; tax assessors records; “New Roosevelt Theater Is a Monument to Einar Dahl,” Kenosha Evening News, 24 December 1927, 22/1; “No Plans to Reopen Roosevelt,” Kenosha News, 14 March 1985. “Architecture/History Survey.” WHS project number 03-1016/KN. October 2003. Heritage Research, Ltd.
It was built in 1912 for $6,000 for Mrs. W. H. Hendricks, and the architect was W. H. Garns.
It was built for $20,000 for the Mississippi Valley Eastern Amusement Company, 804 Times Building, St. Louis. The president and architect was F. L. Hopkins.
From CONSTRUCTION NEWS, September 28, 1912: “Two theaters, one at Racine and the other at Madison, Wis., each bearing the name of Orpheum (1), have recently been completed and opened to the public. … The building at Madison is a theater building exclusively, while that at Racine is much larger and contains a number of offices as well as the theater. While differing widely in general plan the two buildings are of the same type of construction, the theater interiors are designed along similar lines, and a description of the construction and architectural treatment of one applies generally to the other. … These theaters are similar to the Class 5 theater, as defined by the building ordinance of the city of Chicago, and each has a total seating capacity of about 1,500.
The walls are of brick, resting on reinforced concrete spread foundations. Floors are of reinforced concrete. They are finished in most part with a cement surface, but a liberal use is also made of marble tile for this purpose. Roofs are of flat arch construction supported on steel trusses. The buildings are fireproof throughout with the exception of the cantilever supports of the mezzanine floor and balconies, which are of the slow burning mill construction. The interior finish generally is in ornamental plaster. … The mezzanine floor, containing eleven divisions or compartments, is a distinctive feature of these theaters, suggested by the latest practice in London and on the continent of Europe. This practice is unusual in America. … This arrangement of the mezzanine floor, where adopted, has been found to be a popular feature, since each division of the mezzanine floor has many of the advantages of a box without the corresponding expense. Four proscenium boxes are provided. The mezzanine floor is reached by stairways from the foyer on the main floor.
The balcony is so arranged as to provide practically both a balcony and a gallery, but without a sharp division between the two. The lower section is entered through tunnels, while the upper section is entered at a higher level from the rear. The two sections are separate only as to means of entrance and exit, the aisles of one section, as is common in larger theaters, being offset in location with reference to those of the other section. The architectural treatment of both buildings is in the style of Louis XIV. … The general contractors of the Racine theater were the Geo. J. Hoffman Company of South Bend, Ind.”
January 24, 1936.
As seen in May, 1983.