Wisconsin Cinemas I & II

530 W. Wisconsin Avenue,
Milwaukee, WI 53201

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DavidZornig on February 13, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Photos of the Esquire, Strand & Wisconsin Theatres in below 2/11/16 link.


bones on December 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

I am interested in pictures of the gargoyles that were in the ceiling of the lobby and also the gargoyles that were on both sides of the original stage that was covered up in 1963 if someone could help me find more information and pictures of this theater

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on August 26, 2013 at 4:54 am

A Golden Toned Barton Theater Pipe Organ, 3/17, manual/ranks, keyboards/set of pipes, it had TWO CONSOLES, was shipped from the Barton organ factory in 1924. It seems the organ was removed around 1963? What happened to the organ?

moviemonstermuseum on January 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I saw Astro-Zombies at this theater. It was part of a horror triple feature upstairs and played with House of Whipcord or some such title. The next day I returned and saw the three kung fu movies playing downstairs. Dennis

1chinatown on October 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm

When I opened this page and seen that “Move Over Darling” was on the marque, I almost fell off my chair. I seen it their on a very cold December day.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on September 11, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Thanks for the ads,always great to look at all of them.

rivest266 on September 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm

March 28th, 1924 ad is at View link

rivest266 on September 11, 2010 at 4:07 pm

pre grand opening ad for the Cinema 1 & 2 is on the top of the page at View link

kencmcintyre on November 28, 2008 at 7:47 pm

I couldn’t identify the partially obscured theater on the left.

kencmcintyre on November 28, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Should be 1957, not 1958, as that is the year the Braves won the World Series.

kencmcintyre on November 28, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Here is a 1958 photo from Life Magazine that shows a few theaters, including the Wisconsin:

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 23, 2006 at 6:50 am

Thanks for taking the time to type all of that out Jim. It is an interesting story, from a number of different standpoints.

JimRankin on December 21, 2006 at 4:20 am

Well, ‘Life,’ there are no 8x10 glossies as far as I have ever found out. The library of the county historical society has a copy of the Inaugural programme which has 1-inch square photos bordering the text, and there is a full page magazine photo in sepia showing just the left auditorium wall, but this is all I know of. That low resolution magazine photo has no date or identity on it since it was clipped and glued to pasteboard as part of the photos vertical file in originally childrens' dept. I brought the singular image to the attention of a senior librarian before the day when they liquidated the collection, and she said it would be transferred to the Local History Collection. Even in Larry Widen’s new book about Milw. theatre history, “Silver Screens,” he represents the WISCONSIN by means of an opening ad’s artwork from an unidentified source. Without good photos it, it is hard to judge just how accurate the artist’s rendition was. Likely good photos were taken for Rapp & Rapp, but as chance would have it, little appears to survive —that we have yet discovered that I know of.

I wish I had seen the WISCONSIN before it was split, but what I saw was a terrible hack job that only suggested the glamour that may have been. I try not to think of what I saw after 1963 when I started taking my own bus trips downtown from my parents' home 10 miles south in theatreless Greenfield. By the time I got there in my teen years, the chandeliers, draperies, and much plaster was gone. The era of aluminum and plate glass had taken over! The mezzanine was draped over, but I managed to creep into its very dusty seats that hadn’t been used in years; it was depressing. When demolition finally came, I actually felt better for it since the ignominy of slow decay left by United Artists was over. I took a last tour before the wrecking ball swung, and recall going back stage and finding a little room above the stage entrance where hanks of rope still hung on hooks, recalling its lively stage days so many years ago. I took one each of the three stained glass indicator lights from the switchboard (white, red and blue) and later donated them to the museum of the Theatre Historical Society ( www.historictheatres.org ) and am glad I did, since that long switchboard joined the rubble that was carted away. A tiny memory of R&R’s local ‘flagship’ house, but at least there is one.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 19, 2006 at 6:57 pm

Really Jim? Not even the THS archives have photos of this place? That is pretty wild, considering most major Rapp & Rapp houses were reasonably well-photographed.

Did you ever visit the Wisconsin, and what was your most respected opinion of what you saw?

kencmcintyre on June 7, 2006 at 4:51 pm

There is a photo on this page, but it doesn’t show much of the theater:

JimRankin on May 12, 2006 at 10:24 am

Hal is probably right that “not too many gave a hoot” since, as with the situation with the Warner/Centre/Grand, there were and are too few people still around who recall these theatres in their pre-splitting prime. That is 1963 for the WISCONSIN and ten years later for the Warner/Grand. While there are some excellent photos of the Warner at opening, the only good ones are of the Wisconsin’s Lobby; no good photos of the auditorium have been found.

Hal on May 12, 2006 at 8:52 am

I suspect that this was one of the first ‘piggy-back" conversions, (this fate came to the Centre/Grand as well) The downstairs house played some heavy hitters early on, many in 70mm, the upstairs house was always kind of a dumpy affair, and UA ran both so you know what that meant as far as upkeep! At the end, the booths were automated with platters and the 70mm equipment was removed from the downstairs house, which really didn’t matter because by that time all the downtown Milwaukee film houses were on their way into the crapper. This one was running X-rated upstairs and B& C grade stuff downstairs, the twinning pretty much runied whatever was left of the original theatre. I don’t think too many people gave a hoot when this one was finally put out of it’s misery.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 8, 2005 at 9:29 am

The opening movie on 28th March 1924 was “Why Men Leave Home” starring Lewis Stone. The Wisconsin Theatre was equipped with a Barton 3Manual/17Rank theatre pipe organ that had 2 consoles.

DavidHurlbutt on July 16, 2004 at 8:40 pm

During the early 50s the Wisconsin had occasional legit road shows appearing at the theater for six days. Its three big attractions were South Pacific, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Call Me Madam.

JimRankin on April 13, 2004 at 9:26 am

Please let me know if you learn anything more about this theatre. Thank You. Jim Rankin =

jmcdowell on November 25, 2003 at 3:16 pm

I attended several films here in 1967-68 while in school. Notable among them was the opening night of 2001: A Space Oddyssey. The line stretched a good block long.
Also saw Dr. Zhivago (shown on a conventional screen).
I was able to visit the Cinema 1 projection booth which was accessed through the mezzanine. I believe that the seats had been removed, but many were still around.