Paradise Theatre

6229 W. Greenfield Avenue,
West Allis, WI 53214

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1chinatown on October 19, 2012 at 7:24 am

I was an usher there in the 60’s. Many memories, to say the least. It is a shame that it is no longer offering the double features which we all grew up with.

LouisRugani on April 16, 2011 at 10:57 am

Original URL: <>

Another church group hopes to convert old Paradise Theater


The venerable Paradise Theater could get another shot at an afterlife.

A new but growing church on Milwaukee’s East Side is seriously thinking of buying and renovating the 1929 theater at 6229 W. Greenfield Ave. on the city’s busy Six Points intersection, and holding services there.

The Epikos Milwaukee Church would continue to hold services in the former Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2308 E. Belleview Place, which the church bought in 2009, said the Rev. Danny Parmelee, the church’s founding pastor. The church, which was formed in 2005, now has nearly 500 members, Parmelee said.

Despite its east side location, the church has many members in West Allis, some within walking distance of the Paradise, he said, and would welcome a more west-side location for them and others who come from Brookfield, Wauwatosa and as far away as Oconomowoc.

In addition to a sanctuary, the church would like to convert a corner of the now vacant building into a coffee shop. It would be professionally run and have a full espresso bar and light sandwiches, Parmelee said.

If the coffee shop makes money, it would be donated to charities helping people around the world and to those helping West Allis, he said.

City officials are willing to work with the church, but a lot has to be done, said John Stibal, development director. “We’re going to be cautiously optimistic that something can be put together,” Stibal said.

As the sad gem stands now, it’s a hindrance to the city’s redevelopment efforts in the Six Points area, he said. That redevelopment effort includes National and Greenfield avenues from about 60th to 65th streets – an area on which the city has already spent a lot of money and wants to get it back through redevelopment.

“You hate to see it demolished,” he said of the 82-year-old Paradise that has achieved icon status in the city.

But a repair or raze order is in effect and, with the deadline already past, the city could enforce it anytime, Stibal said.

To forestall that, development officials want the church to put a sum to be determined into escrow to ensure that repairs are made.

“We got burned a couple times,” Stibal said, referring to previous owners who promised repairs but let the building deteriorate.

What the Paradise needs now to not slow redevelopment is windows, facade and masonry restoration and replacing just about all the interior systems including plumbing, he said.

He doesn’t want to give the church a deadline for coming up with repair funds for the escrow account, but neither does he want to allow unlimited time. “If we see a good-faith effort, we’ll work with them,” Stibal said.

Church officials understand the city’s cautionary approach, Parmelee said.

“I think the city is a little scarred by things that happened,” he said. “We have to show them we’re actually going to follow through.”

Besides repair funds in an escrow account, the city will probably require annual payments in lieu of taxes because turning the building into a church would take it off the property tax rolls, he said.

The theater stopped showing movies in 1996 and has held an uncertain role in downtown West Allis since that time.

The Paradise Family Life Center was the latest tenant, holding religious services there for about four years until 2009. The church did interior improvements but it ran out of money. The property ended up in the hands of State Bank of Chilton following foreclosure.

The theater was subsequently purchased last year by Courtney Hollis, the wife of Jay Hollis, the former owner of the Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse. Courtney Hollis was listed as the registered agent for a company, created in May, called Paradise LLC.

Shortly after its acquisition, the properly was again listed for sale last summer.

The building has now been vacant for about two years.

For recent interior photos:

Hal on March 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Another theater I worked at from time to time, it was running 2nd run at the time. No Norelcos when I was there, Simplex XL’S and Peerless. It was a neat theater, pretty well kept up too (especially for a UA house, which it was when I worked there)One of the odd things about working there was the requirement that the Star Spangled Banner short be played prior to the 1st show of the day, and woe be the projectionist that didn’t do it! The older lady that was manager there at the time was not one to be messed with, if you didn’t run that thing you could count on one hand how many seconds it would take for her to get up to the booth! This is another nice neighborhood theater that got lost in the megaplex building boom.

LouisRugani on July 7, 2010 at 8:02 am

Wisconsin Theatres member Joe Zollner has been monitoring the PARADISE situation and provided the following updates:

Paradise Theater may be saved after all


Posted: July 2, 2010

Former Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse owner Jay Hollis has purchased the Paradise
Theater, but the building’s future remains murky and a raze-or-repair order is still in effect.

West Allis Development Director John Stibal said the city is waiting to see what Hollis will do. Stibal said plans could include something similar to the Rosebud, but Hollis has the building listed as being for sale.

Hollis could not be reached Wednesday afternoon.

The city granted Hollis a six-month extension on the raze-or-repair order, in the hopes progress will be made on renovations. But West Allis officials won’t hesitate to act sooner than six months if the building continues to sit idle and deteriorate, Stibal said.

The Paradise Theater, 6229 W. Greenfield Ave., has fallen badly into disrepair to the point the city’s Building Inspection Department issued the order in the spring.

Hollis expressed interest in the buying the Paradise Theater last winter, but plans back then did not materialize.

Hollis opened Wauwatosa’s Rosebud Cinema, where movie-goers can relax on sofas and drink beer while watching films, in 1999. He sold the business in 2007.


Some other links: “City has interest in buying Paradise Theater” By MARK SCHAAF “City may find after-life in Paradise Theater” View link “Ex-Rosebud Cinema operator interested in Paradise Theater” By Tom Dayk “Paradise may come to an end” By MARK SCHAAF “Paradise Theater may be saved after all” By MARK SCHAAF

PCino on July 6, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Drove past the Paradise Theatre today (7/6/2010) and I saw people on the roof re-taring & repairing the roof. A good sign! The church marquee was removed and looks like some activity going on there. I’m not sure if the property went out of foreclosure or not or if there is a new owner?

TLSLOEWS on May 12, 2010 at 11:23 am

Just another day in Paradise.

LouisRugani on May 12, 2010 at 8:08 am

May 12, 2010)

Could Paradise indeed be lost?
Possibility exists that theater
could be razed


West Allis â€" City officials and developers over the last several months have spent considerable time pondering the future of the Paradise Theater, which opened at 6229 W. Greenfield Ave. in 1929.

It is now increasingly possible there could be no future at all.

The city has issued a razing order for the 81-year-old building because of its current state of deterioration.

The building will need to be repaired soon if there is any chance of saving it. It could be demolished as early as this summer if no private or public financing comes through, West Allis Development Director John Stibal said.

Stibal plans to ask the council how the city should proceed. Aldermen may consider how much, if any, public money should be used to salvage the theater.

Memories of the way it was

One of those aldermen, Dan Roadt, said he has fond memories of the theater growing up and would love to find a way to keep it standing.

Roadt is a lifelong resident of West Allis who grew up at 88th and Arthur streets. During his youth, he would often walk with his brothers and neighbors a couple times a month to catch a movie.

“We were always up in the balcony with the troublemakers,” Roadt said with a laugh.

But he wonders how many other residents have the same personal history with the Paradise Theater, and doubts a large number of them would support a public investment.

“I would love to save it, but at what cost?” Roadt said. “It’s a beautiful building, but it needs a lot of work.”

Mayor Dan Devine, too, said he hopes something can be worked out but it will come down how much the city is willing to put into it.

“I’d hate to see it go because it’s an iconic structure,” he said.

Long after last picture show

The movies stopped showing in 1996, and the theater has struggled to attract a permanent tenant since. The Paradise Family Life Center, a religious group which moved out early last year following a foreclosure, was the last group to occupy the building.

The State Bank of Chilton owns the building and has been trying to sell it ever since. The former owner of the Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse in Wauwatosa expressed interest in the building earlier this year, but plans never materialized.

forstd – May 11, 2010 7:43 AM

It would be a shame to see the Paradise go away. I have so many fond memories of the old gal. I grew up in West Allis in the 60’s. Our Dad would give my brother and I each a dollar and we would walk from 94th and Schlinger down to Greenfield Ave. Sometimes we would see a movie at the old Capitol Theatre, but mostly it was The Paradise. The movie didn’t matter, WWII movies, Disney, Elvis, Hercules, or Godzilla. It was such a beautiful old theatre. Sadly most of the old palaces are gone, but this one will always be a part of my life. Happy Trails old girl.

El gato – May 11, 2010 8:51 AM

Time does indeed march on, and we are people without a real culture or identity. We love to just toss old things out and bring in the new. History will remember us as “the great throwaway consumer society”, and we won’t have a place alongside the Romans, Greeks, or Egyptians culturally or architecturally!

joeytg – May 11, 2010 9:07 AM

Nice old Theatre… many good memories…. as I recall parking was always an issue in that area. Its too bad that some millionaire kinda guy from the old neighborhood cant come back in and save it. Bad economy / timing for such a project.

Italy – May 11, 2010 1:50 PM

It would be nice if they could save it. If they can’t they should make sure a good salvage company comes in and saves what ever it can.

Mortified West Allis Resident – May 11, 2010 2:59 PM

Since the closing as a movie house the Paradise has never been used to its potential. It was once the headquarters of Agnos Enterprises, complete with a gigantic, egomaniacal, ugly blue sign “decorating” the front of the building. Next came the church, with their unending promises and undercapitalized plans. The city was more than tolerant with both Agnos and the church. I love the building and once hoped for the best, but now it probably should go. I have two questions.

How long will the razed land remain an undeveloped mess? What will replace the building? An empty lot filled with demolition rubble, would hardly be an improvement. Most of the buildings that surround the five corners have made an effort to improve their facades and improve storefronts. The City is doing the neighbors of the Paradise no favors if they demolish the building with no firm plans for clean-up, potential blight and re-development.

mabookery1tdsnet – May 11, 2010 9:05

Since I grew up in this area, I’ve seen umteen gazillion movies at the Paradise. My daughter worked there while she was in high school. It was the place for a few first dates for me. Before the church took it over, I used to walk there on a Friday evening to see a movie. I remember the Capital and Allis theaters too, in fact my dad managed the Capital for a while back in the mid 50’s. My dad often told us about going to the Paradise when he was a kid for the serial short films they showed and the vaudeville acts that appeared there too. My daughter told me of the orchestra pit in front and the dressing rooms on some precarious stairs behind the stage. Good memories in that theater. Demolishing it would be like demolishing a large part of West Allis history.

JimH5 – May 12, 2010 9:05 AM

There ought to be room in West Allis for that building to be used for all kinds of events. High School Drama & Music, Community Theater, Community Meetings & Family Events, High School Graduation.

How much will it cost to save?
James J – May 12, 2010 9:44 AM»
The building used to house a lot of businesses, not just the movie theater. It still could. While I understand that grand movie theaters like the Paradise are a thing of the past, the space can easily be used for many different purposes. It would be much cheaper and better for the neighborhood to keep the building whole and find other uses for it. To tear it down and have an empty lot for ten or more years would hurt the area more than leaving an empty building in place.

The City should provide a low interest loan to the owner to at least seal the building and make it look presentable on the outside. A future low interest loan could be provided for a future owner or tenant to renovate the building.

Whether you like it or not, this building sits on the gateway to West Allis. It is a monumental landmark and it would be hard to replace with something as impressive. The corner of the building should be fixed at the city’s cost to make it more appealing. Nowhere else in West Allis is there such an important gateway to the city.

LouisRugani on December 18, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Paradise Theater adds to its attractions

(Milwaukee Journal, Jan 30, 1995)
AT THE Paradise Theatre, volunteers sell popcorn, take tickets and run the projector. Now they have taken to the stage.

Volunteer musicians now perform before the first showing of movies on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. From 6:30 to 7 p.m., visitors can pick their seats and settle in for some pre-film entertainment: classical guitar, cello, electronic keyboard and more.

Here’s the latest lineup of films:

“Twenty-One Days.” Starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, directed by Basil Dean; 7 and 9 p.m. Tuesday jan 31, Wednesday feb1 and Thursday Feb. 2. (1937, black and white, 75 minutes.)

“Babes in Arms.” Starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, directed by Busby Berkeley; 7 and 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, through Thursday, Feb. 9. (1939, black and white, 93 minutes).

“Romeo and Juliet.” Starring Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey and Michael York, directed by Franco Zeffirelli; 7 p.m. Feb. 10-12 and 14-16. (1968, color, 139 minutes.)

“The Cameraman.” Starring Buster Keaton and Marceline Day, directed by Edward Sedgwick; 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 22-23. With live accompaniment by Sigmond Snopek III. (1928, black and white, silent, 78 minutes.)

“Rear Window.” Starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 7 and 9:10 p.m. Feb. 24-26 (Friday-Sunday) and Feb. 28-March 2. (1954, color, 112 minutes.)

“Children of Paradise.” In French with English subtitles, starring Jean- Louis Barrault and Pierre Brasseur, directed by Marcel Carne; 7 p.m. March 7-9. (1945, black and white, 195 minutes.)

“Little Women.” Starring Katharine Hepburn and Joan Bennett; directed by George Cukor; 7 and 9:10 p.m. March 10-12 (Friday-Sunday) and 14-16. (1933, black and white, 117 minutes.)

“The Last Laugh.” Starring Emil Jannings and Max Hiller, directed by F.W. Murnau; 7 p.m. March 22 and 23. With live accompaniment by Snopek. (1924, black and white, silent, 73 minutes.)

“The Bridge on the River Kwai.” Starring William Holden and Alec Guinness, directed by David Lean; 7 p.m. March 24-26 (Friday-Sunday) and 28-30. (1957, Cinemascope, color, 161 minutes.)

The Paradise Theatre is at 62nd St. and Greenfield Ave., West Allis. Admission is $2.50, $1 for children with an adult.

LouisRugani on December 18, 2009 at 6:45 am

From West Allis Now (West Allis, Wisconsin):

City may find after-life in Paradise Theater
If money can be found, city could takeover historic site


West Allis â€" With its boarded up windows outside and unused theater and office spaces inside, the historic Paradise Theater still looks like a building in transition at the corner of one of the city’s busiest intersections.

It’s a scene at Greenfield and National avenues and 60th Street that’s become pretty familiar to passers-by. Since movies stopped playing there in 1996, the building has struggled to attract a permanent tenant, which has contributed to its deterioration and the unsightly scene.

But West Allis officials are now exploring whether there is any historic preservation money to aid in the redevelopment of the theater, 6229 W. Greenfield Ave.

A developing situation

The city is in the early stages of seeing whether state funds are available to help the city purchase the property, with the ultimate goal of getting it into the hands of a private developer, city Planner Shaun Mueller said.

“We’re just seeing what’s out there to see if we could assist moving those properties along,” Mueller said.

The city has long sought to restore the building, in part due to its location in the emerging, redeveloped Six Points neighborhood and also because of its historic nature.

Banking on the future

The building is now owned by the State Bank of Chilton after a foreclosure. The Paradise Family Life Center was the latest tenant, holding religious services there for about four years.

The group that ran the church, Ziklag Global Investments, was forced out due to the foreclosure and after the Common Council last year revoked its special-use permit.

Aldermen at the time said the group didn’t live up to its obligations of the permit – one of the stipulations was putting windows on the east end of the building – and owed $70,000 toward parking for the area’s redevelopment.

The once-open aired east end of the building was eventually boarded up amid neighbors' and city officials' complaints of skateboarders and loitering.

A history of economic woe
Tough economic times are nothing new for the Paradise Theater. It was built during the Great Depression and allowed cash-strapped residents to see movies for a nickel, said Devan Gracyalny, West Allis Historical Society president.

Gracyalny has been told the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and he hopes grant money can help revitalize the building.

“I think it’s a wonderful building and I would hope it can be saved either privately or through a private-public joint partnership,” he said.

Here’s a recent photo of the Paradise Building looking to the west-southwest:

LouisRugani on December 6, 2009 at 2:47 am

City has interest in buying Paradise Theater


Dec. 4, 2009

The city is exploring whether there is any historic preservation money to aid in the redevelopment of the Paradise Theater, 6229 W. Greenfield Ave.

Officials are in the early stages of seeing whether state funds are available to help the city purchase the property, with the ultimate goal of getting it into the hands of a private developer, city Planner Shaun Mueller said.

“We’re just seeing what’s out there to see if we could assist moving those properties along,” Mueller said.

The building is vacant and now owned by the State Bank of Chilton after a foreclosure forced out the Paradise Family Life Center, which held religious services there for about four years.

The Paradise Theater, which opened in 1929, has struggled to attract a permanent tenant since it stopped showing movies in 1996.

NuclearArt on April 3, 2008 at 6:01 am

The Gala grand opening of the theater was on November 11, 1929. It opened with the “Fox All Talking Picture, ‘Big Time’, with Lee Tracey, Mae Clark, and Stepin Fetchit…” – Milwaukee Journal, November 11, 1929. According to the article the building had a capacity of 1,500 although that probably was the fire code limit and not seating capacity.

Broan on October 7, 2007 at 11:09 pm

Recent photos of this theatre are HERE

DavidHurlbutt on April 28, 2007 at 1:54 pm

In 1946 during the screening of a double bill of FROM THIS DAY FORWARD and ZIGFIELD FOLLIES at the Paradise the projectionist or manager voiced over the soundtrack that Joe Lewis had just defended his heaveyweight title. The audience cheered and then it again was quiet while Joan Fontaine continued her emoting.

Hal on May 13, 2006 at 7:48 am

This is another theatre that I worked as a projectionist in, when I was there it was a 2nd run house, being run by United Artists as I recall. The one odd thing about working here at that time was the manager’s insistance that we run the Star Spangled Banner film clip before the first show of the day! And whoa be the projectionist that forgot to do it, you could here the footsteps of the manager (a not very pleasant lady I might add) pounding up the steps to the booth within seconds! It was kind of a nice theatre as I recall, but suffered from lack of maintenance just like most UA houses, and being a 2nd run house only made that particular flaw worse.

juliekoehn on August 1, 2005 at 8:54 am

I was driving by the Paradise the other day and I noticed 3 men wearing painting clothes standing outside. I know that Jim Rankin’s posted comment from Dec. 2004 said it was sold and to remain a religious operation, but I just wanted to know if anyone knows anything else about the renovation effort? Is there any hope for it to become a theater again??

WPilgreen on July 31, 2005 at 7:26 pm

Like juliekoehn and others, this writer remembers many hours spent at the Paradise.

Due, I suppose, to the oddly configured lot, the entryway and lobby areas were somewhat cramped. As was true for many houses of the late twenties, every square foot of the building not given over to the theater itself was available for rent, and the triangular upper floor facing the junction of Greenfield and National Avenues was filled with professional offices. The siting of the Paradise in 1929 followed the Balaban & Katz template in that it was located at a major streetcar and interurban junction.

The Paradise was operated in the forties and early fifties by Fox Wisconsin, playing day-and-date with the Garfield, Uptown and Modjeska. Even though aged only ten or so, I remember being shocked at the cavalier disregard for the surroundings shown when Fox installed a CinemaScope screen in 1953.

JimRankin on December 7, 2004 at 8:25 am

Re: The PARADISE theatre in West Allis is sold and to be restored.

The eagle eyes of Joe Zollner of THSA spotted an 8-½-inch display ad in a local ‘shopper’ newspaper which he kindly shares with us and which was titled: “ANOUNCING THE RESURRECTION OF A WEST ALLIS LANDMARK”. It states in part, regarding the former PARADISE theatre building: the building will be known as “The Paradise Family Life Center”; “The theatre will be renovated and restored to its original elegance and will be used for a variety of presentations ….” “We anticipate that … the Center… will be open and available to the public sometime in early 2005.” Strangely, no name of the new owner is given, but it is made clear that it will be a religious operation.

A long conversation with Dan Baldwin, the man who headed the group that bought the 1929 movie palace in 2000 from recent Greek immigrant land developer, Peter Agnos, revealed that his group of three investors, Creative Community Solutions LLC, had sold the theatre and surrounding commercial and office bldg. to Ziklag Global Investments Corp. LLC, a division of Ziklag Ministries, Inc., a not-for-profit. Baldwin had wanted to expand his psychological counseling company, but the events surrounding 9-11-01, about a year after they purchased the building, proved so depressing to the business market in the following years, that loan funds dried up, as did a lot of business. Within a year after, he had divorced, and one of his partners withdrew for larger offices, causing more disruptions in his plans for the building. Parking for their patients was also a problem with little children then having to cross busy Greenfield avenue from the only lot available. So, by Nov. 1st last, they were able to conclude the sale after a year of negotiations with this nationwide religious foundation for a sale price of $400,000, about $50,000 more than they paid for it. In a way, it was the end of a dream for Dan, but he pledges to remain in the area after relocating his offices from above the storefronts, and will still be somewhat active behind the scenes as a consultant to the new operators.

In the intervening years, the city inaugurated a new Tax Incremental Financing program, and so now funds became available to help properties along Greenfield avenue, the main street of the older eastern half of West Allis, and this helped pave the way for a reasonable plan for the 1300-seat theatre which last showed films in 1995. New operations are to be under the direction of pastor Tom Redlich who is to oversee the ‘restoration’ of the building. Dan Baldwin states that they plan to remove some plaster ornament from under the balcony to place upon water damaged areas near the proscenium, so it appears that they will be more interested in an economical approach to ‘restoration’ than recreating all the missing elements as seen in 1929 photos now at Theatre Historical Soc., copies of which Dan Baldwin has turned over to the new owners. The new owner plans to turn the curved point of the building at the junction of “Six Points” into a Christian coffee shop with a staircase up to a new conference center and a passage will be cut through the lobby wall of the theatre to access the enlarged corner restaurant/coffee shop. A “Christian” book store will occupy the store fronts to the west of the theatre entry. The auditorium will be used only for things which a child should be allowed to see, as is stated in the Announcement. We hope the new owners will be able to return the gloss to this modest palace designed by Urban F. Peacock, who as part of the firm Peacock & Frank, designed several Midwestern movie palaces.

JimRankin on April 15, 2004 at 6:35 am

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

AndrewWillenson on January 15, 2004 at 11:48 am

The people who ran the Paradise at the end of its life did just about everything right. They ran classic movies there on weekdays, and second run movies on the weekends. The theater had Dolby stereo. The theater was equipped with two 70 mm film projectors. (I saw Lawrence of Arabia and My Fair Lady in 70 mm in that theater.) Charlie Tennessen (spelling?) and the other business partner (I can not remember his name) made a subperb effort at the Paradise.

Sometimes crowds were large. However, the Paradise obviously did
not do well enough to support the two men. West Allis is a good, respectable area. However, it really is not an entertainment zone.
(Forgetting the fair park.) Also, the classic movies were usually shown weekdays, not weekends. Weekends are when people date, and see movies. I wonder if running classic movies a full week like the Times Cinema currently does would have been intelligent.
Sad to say, I saw the last regular-schedule movie at the Paradise,
which was On The Waterfront. It was sad to see this theater close.


Andrew N. Willenson

juliekoehn on January 13, 2004 at 10:35 am

I spent almost every weekend at the paradise theater in my high school days. I was, and still am, devistated upon its closing. It is such a beautiful and historic building in an area that is severely lacking in beauty and not taking steps to restore its history. I recently sat in on a church service that is being held there now. It made me very sad.
It is time for Peter Agnos, or somebody with the proper authority, to bring the paradise back to life. The last thing West Allis needs is a new Taco Bell/Long John Silver on the corner of Hawley and Greenfield when the Paradise theater remains closed. Tell me what I
can do to help. I will be the first volunteer.
p.s. What ever happened to Charlie??

JimRankin on December 25, 2002 at 9:06 am

Paradise it may have been for the audience at one time, but that was never the case for projectionists. What little air conditioning this theater had was not much, but none of it was in the projection room, and few guys alive today know of the heat that those old carbon arc film projectors gave off. In summer time the temperature in the room often exceeded 120 degrees! The guy running the two machines in the 80s got to the point that he stripped naked but for his shoes and ran the machines that way. One day the manager’s girlfriend had to bring a message up there from the office (the old intercom phone had expired long ago) and she walks in on the guy as he sits on the room’s toilet, there being no stall or curtain – it was all just guys when they designed the building. He said that she was the ‘modern’ type and just stood there in front of him taking in the sign while asking him if there was a reply. He gave her an unprintable ‘reply’ and told her to get out. She just laughed and pointed and slowly walked away. He told me that after that she always smirked at him when they saw one another, but he kept at least his jockey shorts on from then on regardless of how hot it got! Still want to be a projectionist?