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Curtains close on Princess Theatre (Oct. 2, 2015) By Audrey Davis, For The Miami Student
Just a few days ago, the shelves at the Princess Theatre were still stocked with candy. A batch of popcorn, though stale and old, was still piled in the machine, ready to be eaten — even though the theatre had been closed for well over a year. Before the demolition began Monday, the historic Princess had been around for over a century. It was first opened Sept. 11, 1911 and was originally called the New Oxford Theatre. From its opening to its demolition this week, the theatre went through several ownerships and two additional name changes. It wasn’t until 1982 the theatre got the name it is known by today.
While it was called the Talawanda Theatre, Angela Provines, a Miami alumna (’75), recalls spending many evenings there. “Many professors and their families would attend movies there,” Provines said. “It was weird to see them out of the classroom and being ‘real people.’”
An ad for the New Oxford Theatre was featured in a 1938 edition of The Miami Student, promoting ticket prices at only 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults. Students used to be given discounted prices if they brought their college IDs. Provines said because of this, the theatre was usually packed, especially on Saturday nights.
The theatre had always been known for its cheap ticket prices, making it a great hangout spot for Oxford’s younger population, like first-year Phoebe Myers. Myers has lived in Oxford her whole life. She had been watching shows at the Princess Theatre for as long as she can remember. She recalls the day she was allowed to go to the theatre without her parents, when she was 11 years old — a monumental moment. The theatre, she said, was a large part of her childhood and teenage years. “Freshman year of high school, all of the English classes read the Hunger Games,” Myers said. “One day we all walked from the old high school to the Princess to watch the movie, and that was just a really great memory.”
Senior Jillian Runser also remembers watching the same movie at the theater. “My sophomore year we got free tickets to see the Hunger Games premiere there,” Runser said. “It was just a bunch of girls from my corridor freaking out about it, so it was a lot of fun.”
In the past few years, the theatre has closed and reopened several times. In 2014, not long after it had been renovated, the Princess caught fire from an overheated ice machine. Although the theatre was not open at the time and no one was hurt, it was shut down due to smoke damage and has remained closed since. “It was just a really good place to go if you wanted an alternative to going out to bars or just hang out with your friends and relax and forget about what was going on around you,” Runser said.
The theater has been missed in the town since its indefinite closing. Myers said younger kids, especially, have lost something that gave them a sense of freedom.
“It was part of the town’s identity,” Myers said. “It just fit with Oxford.”
Kenosha closes the curtain on historic theater
(DAILY REPORTER, August 11, 2008)
Kenosha is tearing down one of its historic movie houses over the objections of the building’s owners. Kathryn Hanneman and John Gee, owners of the Roosevelt Theatre since 2000, pleaded with city officials to spare the building. They want to turn the movie house into a studio for shooting commercials and television pilots. But after eight years, they’ve made no progress. Worse, say city officials, the owners let the building deteriorate to a condition beyond repair. “It’s a building that is in a serious state if disrepair,” said Jim Schultz, Kenosha’s director of Neighborhood Services and Inspections. “It’s a public nuisance and a public safety issue.”
But Hanneman said the city is rushing to destroy a historic property. She claims the building is made of concrete and steel girders thicker than skyscrapers, and could easily stand for years to come. “I think it speaks to their lack of vision,” Hanneman said. “Projects like this are done all of the time. They really don’t have any reason to bring it down.”
The single-screen Roosevelt Theatre, the longest continuously screening theater in Kenosha, opened Christmas Day in 1927 and showed movies for 55 years. It was designed by architect Einar Dahl and revised by architect Charles Augustine. Capacity was originally 1,000 seats but was reduced to 764 seats in the 1970s.
Along with the movie theater, there was a bowling alley in the basement. The interior of the building is all but gone, Schultz said. The bowling alley was removed years ago, and the original organ was dismantled in the 1950s to make room for air conditioning.
The Kenosha City Council voted 14-1 on Aug. 4 to raze the building. The council approved a $37,000 contract with Champion Environmental Services Inc., Gilberts, Ill., to remove asbestos from the theater before demolition. Asbestos removal is scheduled to being in two weeks. Demolition would begin in six weeks.
Hanneman and Gee owe $150,000 in liens and back taxes on the property. They said they do not have the money to make even basic repairs to the theater. They were working with an anonymous donor to receive $500,000 for the theater, but the money was tied up in estate proceedings, Hanneman said.
Gee, an entertainment promoter from Milwaukee, said Kenosha overestimated how much it would cost to “button up” the building until money is found for restoration. His plan was to either fix the exterior and sell the theater to a developer or create a recording and television studio.
But that plan received little support from city officials, said Gee, noting that public money was available to help the Kenosha Theatre and the Rhode Opera House in the city’s downtown. When he asked for city support for the Roosevelt Theatre, he was turned away.
“We wanted a property that supports itself, not one that’s supported by the city,” he said, adding that, in retrospect, he and Hanneman didn’t have the experience needed to complete the project. “That was the weakness in our plan. We didn’t have a real estate professional in our group.”
Schultz said the city does not support tearing down historic buildings. But in the case of the Roosevelt Theatre, he said, restoration would cost more than $1 million.
“Really there’s no choice in the matter,” he said. “The owner doesn’t have the resources to make the minimum necessary repairs.”
The 12,500 square-foot theater is in central Kenosha about a mile from the city’s downtown, which includes two historic theaters, one in use and the other undergoing a $24 million restoration. The Roosevelt has not been used as a theater for more than 20 years. There are no plans to redevelop the site, Schultz said.
The GATEWAY Theatre’s 90th Anniversary last Friday passed without a word of observance from the current occupants … not a good sign, in my opinion.
It’s official. Today the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra revealed it has acquired the Warner Grand theatre building for its new performance center to open in fall of 2020, saying it’ll allow “better long-term financial, operational and creative success.” The MSO has raised $93.5 million of a $120 million campaign to buy, design and renovate the theatre and fund an endowment for the orchestra. Steve and Greg Marcus and The Marcus Corporation donated their ownership of the Warner Grand Theatre to the campaign, the State of Wisconsin granted over $8 million in historic tax credits, and it just received conditional approval for federal historic tax credits.
Citing improving attendance and thanking donors, president/executive director of the MSO Mark Niehaus said “Closing on the acquisition of the Warner Grand Theater is a significant step in both our artistic and financial future.” Owning its venue and being able to rent space within is expected to increase annual revenue by as much as 60 percent and allow easier bookings of guest performers and conductors who usually require lengthy advance notice.
Besides restoration, there’ll be community education spaces, parking options, curbside dropoff/pickup options and onsite catering.
Restoring and adapting the Warner Grand Theatre was said to be 50 to 66 percent less expensive than comparable new construction venue projects across the country.
The Des Plaines City Council moved on Monday, December 18, 2017 to take over the DES PLAINES Theatre through eminent domain by voting 7-1 to begin condemnation proceedings on the 1925 Art Deco-style theatre. Dhitu Bhagwakar bought the theatre in 2003 and showed a mix of Bollywood and other movies before getting shut down due to code violations in 2014.
Only Alderman Dick Sayyad voted against the measure intended to revitalize the city’s downtown but taxpayers could be on the hook in the long term. The theatre acquisition project was a longtime goal of Mayor Matt Bogusz, who had pursued a public-private partnership with Rivers Casino to buy and maintain the theatre. Last August the council approved a non-binding agreement with the casino under which Rivers would kick in up to $2 million to buy and renovate the property plus annual payments of $50,000 to keep it running.
Alderman Malcolm Chester, 6th Ward, opposed Bogusz’s plan when he was running for mayor, but he said a majority of residents he spoke to during the campaign supported the idea. He also cited the partnership with the casino as the key factor in changing his decision.
“They’re basically sharing our risk in this process, which makes it much more viable from my point of view,” Chester said. “This is a risk and I understand that, but Rivers participation reduces that risk enough for me to support it.”
Alderman Carla Brookman, 5th Ward, agreed that the partnership with the casino was a major factor. “We will have control of the property, and that’s most important,” she said. “It gives us the latitude to do a lot of things.”
Resident Ronald Moore said he believed the council had hidden the purchase on the consent agenda, mentioning it only by its street address in the notice of the meeting. He warned against what he suggested would be a costly venture over the long term and recommended a referendum.
“Let the citizens decide whether the city should spend $2 million and who knows, after five years, how much more the city will spend in tax money to keep this thing running,” he said.
Ron Onesti, owner of the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles had shown interest in operating the theatre if Des Plaines manages to acquire it.
The move to begin eminent domain proceedings follow several months of negotiations between the city and owner of the theatre. Bogusz told the Des Plaines Journal the city’s appraised value of the property is between $400,000 and $500,000 but owner Bhagwakar, who purchased the building in 2003 for $920,000 from a bank that wanted to tear down the structure and build a drive-through, has said his appraised value is $2.3 million. He had said he was open to selling the property but described the city’s offer of $450,000 as “low ball,” saying there was “no way” he could accept such an offer, the Daily Herald reported.
Bogusz – who has previously described Bhagwaker as a “bad actor” – told the Journal the city’s appraisal takes into account the cost of bringing the theater back into code and is a more accurate market value. He said a lawsuit to take over the property would be filed as soon as possible, calling it “a long time coming.” According to Cook County Assessor records, Bhagwakar repeatedly appealed down the assessed value of the property from $381,251 in 2008 to about $80,000 in 2011 and every subsequent year. It was closed in January 2014 when he failed to meet the city’s deadline to fix various building code issues, including a sprinkler system near the stage, bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a fire-resistant curtain, the Daily Herald reported. Bhagwakar also reportedly turned down takeover offers from the theatre’s former general manager and a local trucking company owner who said he offered him a blank check to buy the theater.
(Racine Journal News) Crystal Theatre Opens Tonight – Tonight will see the first performances of the De Vault Stock Company at the new Crystal theatre, formerly the College Avenue Orpheum. There will be two performances, one at seven and the other nine o'clock. “The Yankee Doodle Boy” will be the attraction until Thursday, when will be billed Clyde Fitch’s great success “The Girl and the Chauffeur.” This idea of a permanently located stock company is new to Kacine, but the promoters feel it is going to be an unqualified success.
Racine Journal Times, July 9, 1937) – Experienced Showman Cornel to Racine to Operate Rex Theater …
The Rex theater, which will open within the next 10 days with vaudeville presentations and talking pictures will be guided by an experienced hand. A. J. Cooper, president and managing director of the Cooper’s Theaters Inc., will be in charge of the new Rex theater. Building his first theater in a small Ohio town in 1915, he later established a circuit of theaters in Wisconsin. Subsequently he organized a chain of theatres in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and then went to New York city, where he opened and operated the New York Hippodrome theater. On his chain of theaters the Riverside theater in Milwaukee is still running under his original policy. Mr. Cooper places a great deal of faith in Racine.
(February 7, 1972)– Earl Warner, 78, died Sunday morning at the Sunset Rest Home, Fairchild, where he had been a resident for the past two months. Mr. Warner was born May 21, 1393 in the Town of Bridge Creek and married the former Jean Johnson in 1921. The couple lived their entire life in Augusta, where he had owned and operated the Augusta Theater for more than 35 years. He is survived by three sons, Gary, Downingstown, Pa.; William and Robert, both of Augusta; two daughters, Mrs. William Metz Jr., Augusta, Mrs. Jack Smith, Havre, Mont.; a sister, Mrs. Earl Newhouse, Onalaska; 22 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Anderson Funeral Home here with the Rev. Ralph Walker officiating. Burial will be in West Lawn Cemetery.
Screen Lives Again in Augusta Theater
October 10, 1962 — AUGUSTA (Special) — While movie heroes dance their shadowy ritual across the movies screen here a true life drama is being enacted at the box office.
A month ago Richard L. (Chips) Flodin, 22 , of 1611 Western Avenue, Eau Claire, and his wife, re-opened the August theater which had been silent and dark for two years.
Many folks know Flodin as an Eau Claire radio personality, who conducted a late-evening record show, worked at the television studio as a film director and moved to Marshfield as a radio announcer after marrying Maxine Knowlton in September, 1961.
Some folks know that Flodin, who has a lifelong interest in the entertainment world in general and the movie world in particular, launched his business here a month ago on a shoestring after being out of work for months.
Few know he had to leave his radio announcing post, when failing eyesight canceled out his ability to read news stories or other announcements. He has been in hospitals twice since then in efforts. so far futile, to push back the curtain of darkness that is gradually closing in.
At best Flodin can make out the shape and form of large objects. At worst he can just distinguish between light and darkness.
“It seems like there is always a way, if you can just find it.”, he says. He doesn’t like to talk about his problems. He would rather talk about his Eau Claire friends who tipped him off to the possibility of reopening the theater here: who helped himself and his wife clean up, paint and partially remodel the main street building for the event; and the Augusta businessmen who have supported his effort. He sells them some advertising on the screen and reports that business support has represented the difference between success and failure during the first weeks.
He has found that although business is good “many people have gotten out of the movie habit.” He hopes that by presenting the best pictures his budget will allow he can recapture some interest.
He also praised the August young people, Jerry Setzer, Julie Neldon and Jim Steadman, who work at the theater for showings: one on Thursday, two on Friday and Saturday nights, matinees on Saturday and Sunday, and the Sunday night performance.
So far his wife, who is 19, has been his principle helper, caring for books, driving his car and using her eyes for him. She will have added duties soon when their first child is born. Flodin is hoping to find a place here where he can reasonably park their trailer close to the theater so he can walk back and forth alone.
“I was pretty busted up,” he says, recalling the time when he first learned his eye ailment is serious and could be permanent. But his face lights up as he describes how he is trying to improve the theater sound system and the bright plans he has for the future if his venture here succeeds. He will know better when the next two months of his three-month trial period are complete.
Built as the BUECHNER Theatre.
THE SHEBOYGAN PRESS, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1931 – Picture And Bomb Climax Simultaneous In Chicago ——————– During these weeks, 16 bombs have been hurled, 14 of them at theatres involved in the fight. Until last night, all were exploded outside the show houses. The 14th and 15th, both thrown yesterday, were hurled at theatres not involved. Owners said they must have been “errors.” Besides Mooney, the other seriously hurt last night were Edward Foy, city fireman, and Edward Schaeffer. Several women wera slightly hurt. The war between owners and operators started when the owners rebelled against ,a union rule requiring two operators in every theatre. When efforts to compromise failed, the owners locked out the operators and imported non-union men from New York to replace them. The bombings began, continuing since at the rate of about one a day. Thomas Maloy, under indictment on conspiracy charges and accused of being a racketeer, is head of the union involved in the controversy.
Chicago (UP) The theatre bomb war and the moving picture “Dancing Dynamite” reached their climaxes at the same time last night in the Colony theatre on the southwest side. Just as the climax of the picture came, flames shot upward from the center of the audience of about 800 persons. Two other patrons, one a fireman off duty, tackled the fleeing man and beat out the flames. All three were seriously burned. The man who fled was Peter Mooney, 30, a former convict. Police were convinced he carried a sulphur bomb into the theatre, intending to terrorize patrons by tossing it among them, but that he blundered and the bomb exploded in his lap. Officers said the incident undoubtedly would prove the climax of the controversy which has been waged for weeks between owners of 104 independent theatres and the union operators whom they locked out.
(Racine Journal Times, October 8, 2017) – The Uptown Racine neighborhood has struggled to maintain business, but a new proposal in the 2018 capital improvement plan might breathe some life into the neighborhood. The proposal is looking to turn the old Uptown theater into a performing arts center and it asks for $75,000 to perform a feasibility study and $50,000 to perform market analysis in 2019. That money would get taken out of the intergovernmental revenue sharing fund. The proposal also included $10 million to be used in 2021 for property purchase and construction. The city would use $5 million of the TID bond and $5 million from private development to fund the project.
Racine City Administrator Jim Palenick said it could make a huge difference in the area if the theater on the 1400 block of Washington Avenue was revitalized. “If the city can come forward with a very strong start to this project, can the private sector make this happen,” adding the city has had discussions with people in Uptown and thinks that this project can “create some vision and get something done on a pretty solid plan that’s been out there for a while.”
Sandy Weidner, mayoral candidate, said the plan “doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me at all, but I’d like to know more about it. I do think it would be a good thing, but I would need to hear more from the director of city development on what the expectation is from the feasibility study and market analysis. I’d also like to know if we’d done one in the past.” Weidner said on taking the money out of the intergovernmental revenue sharing fund: “that’s going to depend on the health of that particular fund to know if we could take $125,000 out of there. There’s a lot of other commitments being proposed to come out of the intergovernmental fund.”
State Rep. Cory Mason, mayoral candidate, also echoed the same sentiments about wanting to know more about the project. “I think Uptown needs something transformative to help bring it back … revitalizing Uptown has been a priority for the city and should be a priority for the next mayor,” Mason said. “Whether or not this project is the best way to revitalize Uptown is still unclear to me… I’d like to hear what the community has to say about it.”
Mason said it’s very early in the process for this project and would like to have more input from different members of the community. “I think a mistake that was made with the arena was there wasn’t enough done to gauge community support for the project,” Mason said. “For me the first thing I want to do is gauge not just the feasibility of a project like that, but also the community support for it.”
Yesenia Alashi, manager at Furniture Warehouse, 1510 Washington Ave., said anything new to the area would be an improvement. “This area is pretty dead now … a lot of stores have closed down or they don’t have a lot going on in this uptown area. It would be nice to get something newer something fresh in this area. It might boost this area a little bit more, especially a theater.”
LOCAL “LITTLE THEATRE” TO SHOW NOVEL FILMS (Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, December 9, 1938)
The Little Theatre, a motion picture playhouse dedicated to the showing of outstanding film attractions made in this country, England and the European continent, opened here this week on N. Third street, just south of Wisconsin avenue. Like its counterparts the country over, the Little Theatre, established in the former Garden Theatre, will show only single features with the balance of the program composed of specially selected short subjects and latest news releases.
Historic West Bend Theatre, Inc. purchased the 88-year-old WEST BEND Theatre this week for $250,000 from Ascendant Holdings LLC. HWBT has launched a campaign with the goal of raising $1.5 million to $3 million to renovate the theater next year.
John Torinus, the group’s spokesperson and chairman of Serigraph Inc. said plans to gut all but the building’s facade were met with opposition from the West Bend community. “The town sort of rose up and said, ‘No, you can’t take down the theater — that’s where I had my first date. That’s where I had my first kiss. It really was palpable.”
Ascendant Holdings, LLC bought the building in 2012 for $100,000, according to state records. Its founder Matt Prescott, a West Bend native, stabilized the property and has readied it for reuse, Torinus said.
Torinus said HWBT envisions the restored theatre hosting showings of classic movies, matinee showings for children, musical performances, comedy acts, corporate events and weddings. “It will be a community, all-purpose facility,” he said. HWBT has brought on Scott Georgeson, an architect whose portfolio includes restoration work on the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Skylight Opera Theater and Schauer Arts & Activity Center in Hartford.
Torinus said HWBT is raising money through the rest of 2017 with construction anticipated to begin in early 2018
and a goal to have it completed in 2018, he said. “So far we’ve had nothing but good reception from the community and potential donors,” he said.
First-run features are ending at The Marcus Corp.’s SHOWTIME Franklin theater. Instead, it will screen movies when they become available for $2.50. On Tuesday nights, admission will be $1.50. The concessions at the Franklin theater will not be impacted by the change. “With a number of properties in the vicinity, Marcus Theatres is uniquely positioned to offer a variety of choices for guests,” said Rolando Rodriguez, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Marcus Theatres.
Milwaukee Film to operate Oriental Theatre; Fundraising $10 million to revitalize 90-year-old facility (by Lauren Anderson, BizTimes, June 19, 2017)
Milwaukee Film, the organizer of the city’s annual film festival, has entered into a 31-year lease to operate the Oriental Theatre and announced plans to make upgrades to the historic facility. The nonprofit organization is fundraising $10 million to revitalize the 1927 theater with the goal of “creating a superior customer experience and making the Oriental Theatre a state of the art historic cinema,” according to a Milwaukee Film news release.
The Oriental Theatre, located on Milwaukee’s east side, opened in 1927. The theater, located on Milwaukee’s East Side at 2230 N. Farwell Ave., is currently operated by Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres. When it assumes operation of the theater in July 2018, Milwaukee Film plans to run a year-round, nonprofit cinema.
“The Oriental Theatre is a treasure. I have visited hundreds of cinemas worldwide and the Oriental Theatre is my favorite. It is magical to see 1,000 of our members fill the main house at our monthly screenings,” said Jonathan Jackson, artistic and executive director of Milwaukee Film. “Our nine-year-old organization securing long-term control of this cinema is a momentous occasion. We have cemented our permanence in Milwaukee and intend to greatly expand our cultural, economic, and educational impact on our community.”
The organization has secured $3 million of its $10 million fundraising goal. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who co-founded Milwaukee Film, made a personal contribution of $2 million.
“From day one, every person involved in Milwaukee Film – from staff, to volunteers, to the board, to our dedicated 3,600 members – has been driven by the goal of not simply creating a film festival, but creating one of the best and biggest film festivals in the world,” Abele said. “This announcement brings us closer to that goal. It isn’t the culmination or an end point, it’s the start of the next chapter.”
The Herzfeld Foundation has also committed $1 million to the initiative.
Designs haven’t yet been completed, but the organization is “committed to maintaining the existing aesthetics and character of this iconic Milwaukee building,” according to the release.
Kenosha’s Cinemark Tinseltown USA movie theatre has been sold to a New Jersey-based real estate investment group for $8.4 million, according to state records.
Chambers Street Properties purchased the 14-screen theatre at 7101 70th Court from SP Theater LLC of Chicago.
Cinemark operates 525 theatres in 41 states, Brazil, Argentina and 13 other Latin American countries. This is the only Cinemark theater in Wisconsin.
Chambers Street Properties merged with Gramercy Property Trust, Inc. in 2015 creating the largest industrial and office net lease REIT at the time with a value of $5.7 billion.
Visitors must sign a waiver acknowledging that the theatre has been vacant for two decades. There’s a scar on the edge of the balcony, an effort to duplex the auditorium to produce more income in the 1990s, but the Warner is up for rebirth as the home of the Milwaukee Symphony. The stagehouse will have to be extended beyond the current rear wall so it’s large enough to fit the whole orchestra, and its management is leading a bid to renovate the Warner Grand to become the symphony’s new home. The task is to raise $120 million to make the move a reality. So far, the MSO has raised $76 million and says over 50 donors have given substantial gifts to help it move into the Warner Grand to help save an historic gem that likely would be lost otherwise.
The Milwaukee Symphony does about 135 performances per 40-week season and now offers themed performances of music from popular movies like “Harry Potter” and “La La Land” in order to attract new audiences, and its vision with the Warner Grand Theatre is to make going to the symphony an experience from the moment someone walks in the door, the original intent behind going to a movie palace.
The MSO is far from the first orchestra to move into a refurbished movie palace downtown. They’re regularly retrofitted to be symphony halls and the idea of the MSO moving to the Warner Grand had existed for some time. In 2001 the MSO conducted a highly successful acoustical test in the Warner Grand. Being much deeper than it is wide, the “shoebox” shape is better for orchestra acoustics, and the very high balcony is good because the sound doesn’t get trapped under the balcony. The decorations deflect sounds in good ways, though Rapp and Rapp didn’t build any of it for acoustical reasons. But in 2001 there wasn’t an appetite for a move because an addition was being built at the Milwaukee Art Museum, there was too much traffic to expand on North Second Street because it was a major artery, and the MSO’s need wasn’t as great because there were no Broadway shows at its then-home during its season.
Now, with the architecture firm Kahler Slater, the MSO plans to bump the back wall of the L-shaped theater into North Second Street to create a larger stage that can be seen from all areas of the theatre, to extend the east end with an addition replacing replace the building next door, and to enlarge the lobby to hold 1,700 people before and after performances. There’ll be new seating for a 1,750-person capacity, first-floor lavatories and elevators, and a second-floor gathering space for revenue-generating private events.
The City has donated a $750,000 grant and street-reconstruction assistance for moving the rear wall while retaining its historic and structural integrity. Initial approvals are in from the State of Wisconsin and the National Parks Service for historic preservation tax credits which will cover 40 percent of the cost of the historic restoration of the Warner Grand. The project is expected to cost the MSO about $75 million. If fundraising goes as planned, construction will begin in Autumn of 2017 and the MSO will be doing concerts in the born-again Warner Grand Theatre by Autumn of 2019.
An interesting story here. The AMC Fitchburg 18-screen theatre has been sold to a small New Jersey-based theater chain called New Vision Theatres. The theatre has been rebranded Fitchburg 18.
The sale was prompted by AMC’s purchase of Sundance Cinemas. Under the U.S. Department of Justice’s terms for approving the sale of the Carmike Cinemas chain (which included five Sundance theaters) to AMC, the DOJ required that AMC sell off one of the two theatres in markets where it already had a theater, including Madison. Many assumed that meant AMC would sell the six-screen Sundance Cinemas since the chain, largest in the world, is not known for managing smaller arthouses like Sundance. But instead, AMC opted to sell its Fitchburg theatre to New Vision, which appears to be a new company that now owns 10 theaters in six states. “We are excited to welcome you and help you get to the movies and more of what you love!” the website announces.
AMC recently completed a major remodel of this theatre, including adding reclining seats and a bar in the lobby along with AMC’s distinctive bright-red soda machines.
New Visions’s website said that its theatres will offer live sporting events and interactive video games and on its website, New Vision said it will not honor the AMC Stubs loyalty program in which customers earn points towards discounts on movie tickets and concessions. Instead, the theater will offer its own New Neighbor discount card. All AMC passes and coupons will be honored at the theater through the end of July.
Also, New Vision sells a “Refillable Popcorn Bucket” for $21 that entitles the owner to $4.25 refills for an entire year.
In the 1950s, the staff of the Rivoli Theatre portrayed ghosts for the Municipal Recreation Department’s Halloween Saturday afternoon show, the Manitowoc Herald Times reported on October 30, 1953 saying, “Eight young misses will portray the roles of ghosts in serving as ushers at the event for the kiddies. Their adopted theme song will be ‘A-Haunting We Will Go’.” The ushers for the evening included Natalie (Spooks) Lueck, Betty (Spirits) Fronk, Nancy (Shadow) Henrickson, Dorothy (Goblin) Shavlik, Shirley (Screams) Richard, Shirley (Shreaks) Beth, and Lou Ann (Groans) Prausa. The 1953 feature was the “Houdini Story”, “with its death-defying feast of the great escape artist of all time, the late Harry Houdini of Appleton” and “Disaster in the Stratosphere” (the sixth chapter of “The Lost Planet”), “Hollywood at Play”, and three cartoons. A costume contest was held with “numerous worthwhile prizes from Two Rivers merchants.” The article went on to report that “more than a hundred children have appeared in unique and unusual attire, with winners being selected by the applause of the audience.” All entrants through eighth grade were required to sign a “good behavior” pledge at their school, agreeing to exhibit proper behavior for Halloween and not be involved in vandalism or nuisance behavior, common at that time. Admission was fourteen cents, doors opened at 2:45 pm, the entertainment began at 3:15 and lasted about three hours, following which each participant received a treat from the Two Rivers Recreation Department. “Since its inception several years ago provision of this entertainment for the children has reduced Halloween nuisances to a minimum, according to the Police Department. Two Rivers boys and girls find this amusement far more attractive than the trick-or-treat tactics of prior years.”
The 1954 Recreation Department’s Halloween festivities were held on November 1, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Two Rivers Recreation Department. Over 2,000 “good behavior” pledges were disbursed at local schools. Admission was 10 cents.
The RIVOLI, with its 1,000 seats, held its popular Halloween celebrations until it closed in the late 1950s. Afterwards the building became Evan’s Department Store and later the Two Rivers Christian Center Thrift Store.
The CLIFFORD Theatre was already operating in May of 1916 according to a PEG O' THE RING ad.
There’s a political problem that has been the main cause of inaction on the UPTOWN. The UPTOWN is privately controlled by an entity formed by the partners behind Jam Productions but no private operator wants to lay out the millions necessary for restoration; they’re looking for public funds. There’s a history of public investment in Chicago, but it’s politically difficult right now for public entities to invest that money because of other priorities, as simple as that. But then there’s the relatively small capacity of the UPTOWN compared with Wrigley Field, and the newer issue of performers getting ever higher cuts from touring and needing a lot of seats. You’d be left with stand-up comics and nostalgia acts, neither of which are ideal for the space.
For decades, dedicated UPTOWN preservationists have argued the theatre needs to be at the heart of a new entertainment district involving retail, restaurants and the other venues. A sound argument, but such a district did develop around the Wrigley ballpark a mile or so to the south. One could merge into the other, especially since Wrigleyville is hosting more and more live entertainment.
Either way, nobody will ever dare to knock the UPTOWN Theatre down. (Chris Jones, CHICAGO TRIBUNE)
Two competing plans have surfaced with interest in the historic vacant WEST BEND Theatre. The preservationists are with the nonprofit Historic West Bend Theatre, trying to convince city officials and others about its plans to renovate the theatre as a venue for concerts, dance recitals and weddings seating around 400 people, said Scott Georgeson, HWBT’s project architect who operates Orchestra Design Studio in Milwaukee. The renovated WEST BEND Theatre would preserve the building’s stage, he said, with movable seating that would allow for both live performances as well as weddings and other banquet-style events. That flexibility would keep the venue as active as possible and create more opportunities to earn revenue for the building’s operator, he said.
Historic West Bend Theatre is led by Lisa Rowe, an associate lecturer of communications-theater arts at University of Wisconsin-Washington County in West Bend. HWBT was organized in Spring of 2016 and needs to raise an estimated $1 million to $2 million for its proposal, Georgeson said.
Meanwhile, others want to demolish the WEST BEND Theatre while preserving the façade (including the marquee) as an entry into a new park and outdoor amphitheater on the former auditorium footprint, and that group claims it’s nearly raised the $700,000 it says is needed for that project. Mike Husar is leading the effort; he’s an owner of Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds next door to the WEST BEND Theatre, which opened in 1929, ended films about 10 years ago, then was sold to Ascendant Holdings LLC, a real estate development and investment group co-owned by West Bend native Matthew Prescott.
Husar claims the park/amphitheater project would bring more life to downtown and cost less than reusing the theatre. Milwaukee-based Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc. is involved in the Husar group which Husar said has been working on the park/amphitheater plan for about a year.
The WEST BEND Theatre’s owner is avoiding the public controversy. “I don’t think we prefer a certain proposal,” said a representative of building owner Ascendant Holdings. “The important thing to us is that its next owner has a good long-term plan that they can actually follow through on and benefit the entire downtown area.”
The ORPHEUM Theatre revival is on the fast track. Follow at https://www.facebook.com/kenoshaorpheum/