Geneva 4 Theatre

244 Broad Street,
Lake Geneva, WI 53147

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GENEVA Theatre proscenium, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Geneva Theatre opened June 6, 1928. Originally a single-screen theater, it has since been divided into four smaller screens. It is located in the heart of historic downtown Lake Geneva.

Since 2001, the Geneva 4 Theatre has been part of the Nova Cinemas chain, which renovated and updated the theater upon taking it over and screened first-run features.

It was closed in Summer 2008 for renovations and re-opened under a new dynamic management team. There are three theatres on the main floor original orchestra level, one is equipped for plays and concerts, another is for live performances such as ‘open mic’ comedy, small live theatre productions and movies and the thrird is for movies only. The screen in the former balcony is also used for movies only.

As of November 4, 2010, there were no listings available for the Geneva 4 Theatre and it was closed. In April 2016 it was taken over by a new operator and renovations are planned.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on March 15, 2011 at 5:35 pm

(June 6, 1953) $20,000 Damages Awarded by Jury

Third Trial of Case on Spitball Injury in Geneva Theater

Personal injury damages of $20,000 were awarded Robert Pfeiffer, Lake Geneva, late Friday afternoon by a circuit court jury here. The court also assessed the defendant in the case $1,500.92 in damages for Pfeiffer’s father, George, for medical and travel expenses.
The Pfeiffers had claimed that Robert’s sight was impaired when he was hit in the eye with a spitball while attending the Geneva Theater, Lake Geneva. Defendant in the case was the Standard Theater, Inc., owner of the Lake Geneva establishment.
The jury verdict found the theater management negligent on the following counts: (1) in not patroling the theater, and (2) in not maintaining reasonable control of the conduct of its patrons. Such negligence was held the cause of the injury to Pfeiffer’s sight, the jury said.
The case was heard before Judge Francis X. Swietlik, Milwaukee, since an affidavit of prejudice had been filed against Circuit Judge Alfred Drury, who heard two preceding trials of the same suit.

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on March 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm

(September 6, 1938)
LAKE GENEVA THEATER HELD UP FOR $1,400
Lake Geneva, Wis. â€" Four gunmen held up the Lake Geneva theater late last night and escaped with $1,400, representing receipts of thc holiday weekend.
Louis Nye, the owner, told police two of tho bandits stayed on the main floor while thc others went up to the balcony. After they had seen the picture, the two bandits on the main floor forced Nye to go to the second floor office where the other gunmen joined them. Then they forced Nye to open the safe. Mary Sullivan, the cashier, said the bandits had worked so smoothly she did not get a good description of them.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on March 24, 2011 at 11:34 am

that was aheck of alot of money.should have been making drops at the bank like we had to do many years later,Louis.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on March 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Thats true Mike we would have most of the money already in the bank while the movies were playing and before the patrons even left the building.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on March 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm

I guess in those days they Trusted people.Bonnie and Clyde were gone.LOl.

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on May 3, 2011 at 3:50 pm

(Janesville Daily Gazette, June 5, 1953)
Silents to 3-Dimension, Record of Veteran Geneva Projectionist
By AGATHA LANZILOTTI
LAKE GENEVAâ€"From the silent movies to 3-dimension â€" that’s the record of progress for Raymond Mellien, who celebrates his 25th anniversary Saturday as a movie projector operator at the Geneva
Theater. And Mellien, in his long experience says, “Movies really are better than ever."
Mellien actually began his career in 1925. At that time he worked as
an apprentice operator at the old Majestic Theater, now the site of
the Kroger Store on Main Street. He became associated with the Geneva
Theater June 6, 1928, and has been with it through more managers and employes than he can remember.
The veteran operator, interviewed in his upholstery shop here, recalled some early incidents in his life.
He was born in Chicago 47 years ago and came to Lake Geneva at the age of 4. He learned to play the drums as a child and harbored a desire to be a circus performer. During these early years he produced many backyard shows for his friends and neighbors. A chance to travel with a professional show did present itself, but he was forced by his parents to refuse.
Upholstering, which was his father’s business, was very distasteful to him as a boy, Mellien recalls, but now the Haskins Street shop which meant so much to his father has taken on a new meaning for him. He finds the work he does there in the daylight hours gratifying and at times relaxing.
Mellien, tall, slender and soft-spoken, enjoys his work as a projector operator so much that he has made a hobby of showing home movies which he makes himself.
He is married to the former Florence Warner of Lake Geneva. They have two sons, Ray, 21, and Dennis, 15.
Mellien recalls that the first picture shown at the Geneva Theater 25 years ago was silent. It starred William Haines in "I’ll Tell the World”. On the same bill were presented five acts of vaudeville, and, he added quietly, “One of them was from Ringling Brothers.”
His first sound movie was George Jessel in “Lucky Boy” – and the sound was on records. The date of this event was April, 1929. Not until a year later did he show a film with sound as it is today. He showed his first 3-D movie last Sunday night.
Of all the performers who were stars a quarter century ago , Nellien believes Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford and the Barrymores are still star material today. His all-time favorite is the late Wallace Beery. Among the hundreds of pictures he has viewed, he considers “Gone With the Wind”, “Quo Vadis” and “The Greatest Show on Earth” the best. He was especially impressed by Ingrid Bergman’s performance in “Joan of Arc” and is looking forward to her return to American movies.
His favorite of favorites is the presentation of Irene Dunneand John Boles in “Back Street” in the early 1930s.
Of today’s stars, Mellien especially likes Bette Davis, doesn’t think too much of Marilyn Monroe’s “talent”, though he admits she is a tremendous drawing card.
About movie audiences, he had this to say:
“The movie public today knows a lot more than the old audiences. Today they pick their pictures and a movie has to be outstanding in order to draw a crowd. In the old days they went to the movies no matter what played."
Mellien admitted television is the movies' greatest competitor. He doesn’t feel that 3-D movies will bring audiences back to the theatre.
"Only fewer, but better, pictures can do that."
Mellien dislikes double features and pictures made from former hits.
"They seldom compare with the original,” he continued.
Mellien expects to continue in his present job for many years. His only ambition now is a trip to Hollywood, a place he knows so much about but has never seen.
Aside from his two jobs and his hobby, Mellien finds time for other activities. He represents the Third Ward on the county board and is a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Consistory in Madison.
The Geneva Theater, a member of the Standard Theater chain of Milwaukee since 1937, honored Mellien on his 22nd anniversary with the theater. At that time, Russ Mortensen was manager. Present manager is Melvin Coon.

LouRugani
LouRugani on August 21, 2012 at 8:26 pm

(From another forum:)

The original stage and fly areas along with a small orchestra pit are generally intact. The original balcony in the 1928 building was split off from the main floor in 1985. With the current seats, and balcony reopened, the original theater could seat a little over 500. There was also an addition built in 1975 on the north side of the theater that was split into two theaters in 1985, each seating 150 to 200. Fund-raising is still ongoing, and the Friends of The Geneva Theater organization is currently working with the city to see if they would commit TIF Funds towards the purchase of the building. The plan is to restore the building for reuse as a Community Arts Center with a combination of a performing arts venue in the original 1928 portion, and multi-use visual and cultural arts space in the north portion of the building. Further information may be found at http://www.friendsofgenevatheater.org.

tntim
tntim on September 20, 2015 at 6:26 pm

This link is to the October 27, 1928 issue of the “Exhibitors Herald and Picture World” that has pictures and an article about the Geneva Theater. View Link

LouRugani
LouRugani on September 22, 2015 at 6:31 pm

The GENEVA Theatre was the effort of several prominent area industrialists including chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr., Nash Motors division superintendent Robert N. Lee of Kenosha, Nash Motors vice-president Walter Alford of Kenosha, cartoonist Sidney Smith of “Andy Gump” fame, brewer William Pabst, Jr. of Milwaukee, and several others. The first operating company was Community Theatres, of which Pabst was president.

LouRugani
LouRugani on April 18, 2016 at 6:38 pm

LAKE GENEVA Regional News, April 12, 2016: Burlington businessman Shad Branen is the new owner of the Geneva Theater. In an email, Branen confirmed that he closed on the building on March 30. He said he intends to get renovation work started as soon as he gets the proper permits.

Ken Robers, Lake Geneva building and zoning administrator, said Branen has not yet taken out a building permit on the theater, but he is bringing in contractors to take a look at the structure. “I’m letting them do exploratory surgery,” Robers said. He said the contractors are “poking around” the building. Some are looking at the roof which will require work. Robers said he’s also allowing the contractors to pull some of the old roofing surface off in preparation to putting down a new roof.

In March, the Lake Geneva City Council approved a developer’s agreement with Branen for the renovation of the Geneva Theater. Under the agreement, Branen will receive $895,000 in city Tax Increment Finance district funds to assist in the renovation of the 1920s-era theater at 244 Broad St.

Earlier this year, Branen approached the city with a proposal to renovate and reopen the Geneva as a four-plex movie theater with a seating capacity of about 500. The city had set aside $800,000 from its TIF funds for renovating the theater. When Branen first approached the city in February, he requested $950,000. The $895,000 figure was reached after negotiations between Branen and the city.

Under the developer’s agreement, Branen must complete renovating the theater by Dec. 31, or face fines of $100 per day, to come out of the TIF grant. And he must own the property for at least 10 years and operate the theater as a for-profit entertainment center open to the general public. Forgiveness of the grant phases in during those 10 years. If the theater closes or ceases operation during those 10 years, Branen would owe the unforgiven portion of the grant to the city.

Branen is committed to spending no less than $1.36 million on renovating the building, which does not include the sale price of the property. If at least $1.36 million isn’t spent on the renovations, a dollar for dollar reduction will be made in the TIF grant. Landscaping and exterior improvements to the property must be completed by no later than six months after the theater receives its occupancy permit.

Branen has already renovated one old, historic theater, the Plaza Theater in downtown Burlington. The Plaza, built in 1928, the same year as the Geneva Theater, is slightly smaller. Branen bought it out of bankruptcy in 2010 and turned the business around. Branen is a member of the Branen family which once owned the Burlington Standard newspaper. Over the past five years, Branen has renovated and restored the theater, turning it into as much of a conference, community and special events center as a movie house.

The theater now shows free movies during holidays and school breaks, hosts performances by high school choirs and local bands, shows free Green Bay Packer games and the Super Bowl on the big screen. The theater also has a weekend menu served to patrons along with a selection of macro and micro brews.

Branen said a revitalized Geneva Theater could be used to tailor special events to Lake Geneva.

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