Genoa Theatre

625 Walworth Street,
Genoa City, WI 53128

Unfavorite 1 person favorited this theater

GENOA Theatre, Genoa City, Wisconsin: postcard view, 1950s.

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Closed in the early-1990’s, the Genoa Theatre had a target date of late-November 2003 for a reopening.

The Genoa Theatre originally opened on November 22nd, 1949.

Contributed by Pete Christy

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Trolleyguy
Trolleyguy on January 2, 2004 at 1:48 pm

The renovation to date has only resulted in opening a video game room in the former lobby. Other work continues in the auditorium.

When it was built, it had a “swamp” roof for cooling, which was like having a small lake on top of the building. It cause a great deal of difficulty during renovation because of water damage.

JimRankin
JimRankin on June 12, 2004 at 5:22 am

Lou Rugani of Kenosha relates the sad news that the refurbishment of the GENOA has stalled due to a failed partnership of the owners.

DBuckley
DBuckley on October 10, 2005 at 12:35 pm

We would spend two weeks every year in a rented cottage in Twin Lakes, WI. The Genoa was the closest theatre. Saw “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” with Jimmy Stewart, Fabian, & Maureen O'Hara, & “My Six Loves” with Debbie Reynolds in 1962. Saw the Rat Pack in “Robin & the 7 Hoods” in 1963.

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on February 13, 2007 at 6:18 am

The theatre’s actual name is the Genoa Theatre, and it’s located at 625 Walworth Street in downtown Genoa City near US Highway 12.

(Genoa City itself is referenced in the daytime TV drama “The Young and the Restless” as are other nearby communities because screenwriter Tom Racina, a native Kenoshan, is familiar with the area. The village is proud of the resultant publicity and there is a large sign on the edge of town acknowledging the honor.)

The GENOA opened on November 23, 1949 and is of concrete-block construction with a 1950s “jet-age” marquee. Built into the north wall of the structure is a counter-style diner (the “Cinemette”) with its own entrance. There is a full stage, and the GENOA often served as the village’s auditorium, hosting events such as area high school graduations and live theatrical performances.
The roomy auditorium seats 480 plus a few more in a second-floor ‘crying room’. The butterfly roof (not visible from the street) pitches down about four inches in its center with ‘swamp cooling’ – pipes spraying water across the roof in hot weather, an old concept that works rather well with proper roof maintainance in areas where water is cheap.

The original large screen remains, one of four left in the US; it appears to be aluminized in order to view 3D films a la today’s IMAX capabilities.

There are two Brenkert Enarc projectors, and there was a lathe in the basement where copper projection-arc rods were turned from raw stock. The GENOA was a second and third-run theatre throughout its life, finally closing in the early 1990s and darkened since.

The December 19, 2002 Lake Geneva Regional News reported that the GENOA was purchased on November 22, 2002 by a partnership including former village resident Bob Maltz (then living in Wonder Lake, Illinois and a former elder at the Wonder Lake Bible Church) and Rev. Gary Steadman of Monroe, Wisconsin which planned to reopen the GENOA on its anniversary in 2003.

In 2001, a Tim Leonard had successfully petitioned the village board to rezone the GENOA to industrial use for some unspecified purpose, but on December 12, 2002 the village board unanimously voted to rezone the vacant theatre back to commercial use as per the new partnership’s request.

Maltz expressed nostalgia to the reporter over his youthful days at the GENOA, and said he was inspired by the dreams of his late sister Donna Sarna, who had talked about reopening the Genoa over the eight years since it closed. Maltz also stated inspiration from the then-concurrent film “The Majestic” in which a community pulls together to reopen a vacant downtown theatre.

However, Maltz did not indicate a desire for restoration at the GENOA – saying instead that plans included some unspecified change to the 1950s facade, converting the Cinemette to a video arcade (the “No-Tilt Zone”), triplexing the auditorium into three 100-seat screening rooms, creating two upstairs ‘party rooms’ from both the existing crying room and an adjacent storage area, and “maybe” keeping the stage intact for possible live theater performances. Steadman wasn’t quoted in the article but Maltz said he planned to maintain the former revival policy, with a twist: one was to institute ‘theme nights’ by, for example, playing two older car-chase films over a weekend with admission discounts to those who arrive in an older vehicle, and perhaps screening a weekly silent film matinee.

Maltz credited the village for its support and planned a mass-mailing to residents with updates on reopening plans, and a suggestion box outside the theatre.

Genoa City is one of the fastest-growing communities in one of the nation’s busiest and most upscale and attractive residential and tourist areas. Still, the GENOA remains dark in 2007, over four years after the high hopes expressed in that 2002 article. The clerk at one nearby antique-store owner I visited in 2004 said the partners had since gone in different directions.

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on February 16, 2007 at 3:27 am

I revisited the GENOA yesterday and there has been progress. I took two exterior photos which are in the Racine Granada photo collection: www.groups.yahoo.com/group/RacineGranada along with those of other area theatres.

The GENOA now has a roofed superstructure over its original roof, which can be seen in one photo, which seems like massive overkill as the roof problem could have been solved with modern membrane roofing.

The glass doors and box office windows are obscured except for two ‘No Trespassing’ signs visible through the glass. (Which is interesting since actual trespassing is technically impossible as the GENOA touches the public sidewalks, unless you count the tiny threshold into the lobby or a human fly who might attempt to scale the exterior walls.)

The Cinemette is gutted to the wall studs and the wooden marquee (which has a corner chunk missing, probably from a long-ago semi) has been kept painted.

The GENOA is modest but it is attractive with its 1950s-look and Lannon stone trim and it’s my hope that the owner(s) will perpetuate its historical appearance.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 28, 2010 at 1:17 am

A small rendering of the Genoa Theatre accompanied a brief article about the recently-opened house in Boxoffice of December 3, 1949.

This item said that the theater was designed by Gerald M. West of Chicago and Genoa City. But a Boxoffice article of September 3, 1949, had given the architect’s name as Derald West, which is apparently correct. I found a reference to an architect named Derald West practicing in Lake Geneva as early as 1911, and there is a Derald M. West currently listed as practicing architecture in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Given the unusual first name I can’t imagine them not being related. Given the time span, there could have been another Derald West in between them.

As Louis Rugani noted in the fourth comment on this page, Genoa Theatre is the correct name of this house.

mwest51
mwest51 on May 22, 2010 at 11:55 am

Derald M. West is my father, and the architect of the Genoa Theatre. He practiced in Chicago until late 40’s when he opened his own firm in Genoa City until the late 50’s when he moved his practice and his family to Lake Geneva. My dad kept his Lake Geneva practice until the early 90’s when my parents semi-retired to Blowing Rock, NC, where, among many other projects he helped expand the Chetola Resort, along with sports facility, hotel, houses and time share units. He is still a licensed architect today and will be 92 in June!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Marilee West: Thanks for the information about your father. He has had an impressively long career.

Here’s a corection of my earlier comment: The reference I cited, saying there was an architect named Derald West working at Lake Geneva in 1911, was the result of my misreading of information about an architect named William Woodworth. What the source actually said was that Woodworth, while working in a summer job at Derald West’s office, made drawings of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Geneva Inn— which had been built in 1911. No more speed reading on the Internet for me.

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on April 27, 2011 at 4:36 pm

(December 23, 1969)
Witheril Forms Cinema Combine
Theodore F. Witheril, owner of the Capitol and Rialto Theaters in Racine, the Roosevelt Theater in Kenosha and the Genoa Theater in Genoa City, has combined the four into Mid-America Cinema, Inc.
Witheril said the headquarters of the corporation will be at the Capitol Theater, 3017-21 Washington Ave.
He explained the move would substantially decrease paper work and make bookkeeping easier.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater