Al. Ringling Theatre

136 Fourth Avenue,
Baraboo, WI 53913

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Al Ringling Theatre, Baraboo, WI - interior

The 830-seat Al. Ringling Theatre was the grandest theatre ever built in Baraboo, which had a few smaller theatres up to that point.

It was built by circus showman Al. Ringling (of the Ringling Brothers) as a gift back to the town in which he grew up and loved. He hired Chicago architectural firm Rapp & Rapp, best known for their Chicago Theatre, to design his playhouse.

Built in French Renaissance style, the Al. Ringling Theatre is as ornate as any European opera house, complete with gilded plasterwork, frescoes and mosaics and antique tapestries. The Al. Ringling Theatre opened on November 17, 1915 to operatic performances, but soon became known for vaudeville and later motion pictures.

Amazingly, the theatre has remained almost completely intact over the years, despite some 1970’s renovations made with the best intentions that were corrected in the 1990’s. The theatre continues to mainly screen movies, but is also used for live shows, concerts and community gatherings.

It was closed June 15, 2015 for restoration, and reopened February 20, 2016.

Contributed by Jerome Lighthart

Recent comments (view all 40 comments)

Patsy on December 6, 2007 at 11:42 am

Lost Memory: What a wonderful evening photo of a wonderful theatre with a wonderful name…Ringling. BTW, the Ringling home and grounds in Sarasota FL are a must-see!

Patsy on December 11, 2007 at 9:36 am

Lost Memory: GREAT PHOTO!

ERD on March 23, 2008 at 9:14 am

What a beautiful theatre! I am glad it is being maintained so well.

Patsy on March 24, 2008 at 5:44 am

Lost Memory: Your “another angle” photo is spectacular! Thanks for sharing…again!

Patsy on July 16, 2008 at 11:42 am

If ever there was a theatre entrance, this is it with the famous name high above…..Al Ringling! A must-see, in person, someday!

LouisRugani on April 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

(January 16, 1953) Two Baraboo Theaters Sold to New Milwaukee Company

The Al Ringling theater, “America’s Prettiest Playhouse” since 1915, has been sold with its sister theater, the Juliar, to a new Milwaukee corporation, Baraboo Theaters, Inc., by Henry E. Ringllng.
Purchase price for the theaters was announced at more than $150,000. The Al Ringling theater, when it was completed in 1915, cost $100,000.
The corporation which bought the theaters also operates theaters in Richland Center, Boscobel, Elroy, and Black River Falls. It is headed by Jacob Eskin, president of the Eskin Theater Management Co., Milwaukee.
The Al Ringling theater was built by Albert Ringling, an owner of the Ringling Brothers circus. It seats 834, and at the time it was built was one of the largest and finest theaters in a city of its size in the country.
The Juliar, a much smaller theater, was completed in 1938 by Henry E. Ringling, in memory of Mrs. Selome Juliar Ringling, mother of the Ringling brothers.
The Al Ringling theatre originally was built for legitimate theatre, or as an “opera house.” It was converted to a movie theater later. It is still used for area theatrical performances.
Famous actors who have visited the theater during the time it was an opera house include Lionel Barrymore and Charlotte Greenwood.
Henry E. Ringling, Wisconsin Republican national committeeman, was in Washington for the inauguration Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

paulnelson on May 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

Incredible detail here. Classic.

LouRugani on December 3, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Just for accuracy’s sake, officially the theatre’s name has a period after the name ‘Al’.

Trolleyguy on June 14, 2015 at 8:35 am

The theatre will close June 15, 2015 for restoration and reopen in February 2016.

AlRingling on February 25, 2016 at 7:45 am

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