Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse

6823 W. North Avenue,
Wauwatosa, WI 53213

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Related Websites

Times Cinema (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Marcus Theatres, Standard Theaters Management Corp.

Functions: Movies (First Run)

Previous Names: Tosa Theatre

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 414.607.9446

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News About This Theater

Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse

Opened as the Tosa Theatre in 1931, and was previously owned by the Milwaukee based Standard Theaters Management Corp. and Milwaukee-based Marcus Theatres chain. The theatre was purchased by Jay Hollis in 1999, who has since shown first-run films at the Rosebud—which is in direct violation of the terms of the property’s sale.

Since that time, Marcus Corp has sued Hollis and recently offered a settlement that would have Hollis donate money to charity. Hollis has claimed that if he can’t show first-run films, the Rosebud will be forced to close.

The story was turning into something of a soap opera in the area with the determined Hollis defiant to the end and appearing in several newspapers and broadcast outlets to plead his case.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

JimRankin on May 14, 2005 at 3:28 pm

With the announcement in April of 2005 that the AVALON is being purchased by a new owner and will reopen, Mr. Hollis of the ROSEBUD (former TOSA in Wauwatosa) has droped plans for the Bay View location for his new cinema. Instead today’s newspaper says that he will purchse his sister’s cinema, the TIMES. That story will be available for the next four years here:
I hope for the success of the new ownership, which will retain Steve Levin as the operator/lessor for the forseeable future, but if ticket sales again slide, I wonder at the probable success of puting in first run there, since only two miles away Mr. Hollis' ROSEBUD already shows first run. Can two first runs succeed that close to each other?

lwiden on July 31, 2008 at 10:22 pm

The Story of the Rosebud Cinema
by Krysta Legeros, UWM student, 2008

Sitting on a comfortable couch with a piece of pizza in one hand and a cold beer in the other is most people’s idea of the perfect way to watch a movie. This may occur most often in a person’s own living room, but the Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse offers the same option.
Still standing in its beloved neighborhood in Wauwatosa, the Rosebud is a true part of Milwaukee’s beginning. From its opening in the humblest of times to its present day lure of a unique movie going experience, it has patrons coming back again and again. The Rosebud has gone through a multitude of changes over the years, and the most recent renovations are what has it surviving today.
The Rosebud opened on October 22, 1931 as the Tosa Theater, which was extremely unusual during the depression. The theater business is always hit or miss. “For someone to strike out into a business like this was very courageous” said Larry Widen, one of the owners and a respected freelance writer, who sports a gray goatee, mustache and a business mentality. When the theater first opened however, an array of articles and advertisements in the local paper got citizens excited for the new theater.
The opening ceremony housed 600 eager Wauwatosans who got to experience the acoustic panels, leather covered seats arranged on an angled floor, which boasted a great view from anywhere for the new “talkies.” “The projection machines, two huge affairs, are of the latest model and will provide the best synchronization of action with sound,” proclaimed The Wauwatosa News.
The new theater was a place for all ages, as they showed children matinees such as “Wheeler and Whoosey,” as well as films for a more mature audience like “I Take This Woman” and “The American Tragedy.” Citizens frequented the theater, given that the shows changed several times a week. But for a mere of 25 cents for adults it was always affordable.
The original owner, Ross J. Baldwin ran it for nine years until it was sold in 1940 to Ben Marcus. The name might sound familiar because it is an institution in Wisconsin and the surrounding states these days with around 50 locations. But the Rosebud and its sister theater, The Times Theater, were the first Marcus theaters in Milwaukee. “They weren’t one of the first, they were the very first Marcus Theaters,” said Widen. They may show their age compared to the new theaters built today, but their charm and unique aspects more than make up for it.
From the 1940’s to mid-1990, the Rosebud changed hands a few times before finally being bought and remodeled by Jay Hollis in 1999. Many drastic changes took place, which included getting rid of the original theater seats and adding the kitchen and modern bathrooms, to give it the comfortable, homey feel it has today.
Widen describes the Rosebud like many of his customers would. “It’s more like a living room.” The main lobby, with its warm red walls and soft lighting, is a portal back in time to the old theater days. While the illusion of an antique theater exists on the surface, that is as deep as it goes.
The main showing area that houses the one screen does not look anything like a regular theater. It does not feel like one either. Soft, overstuffed black couches have replaced the cramped, hard seating that use to exist. Short tables sit between the couches for a completed living room feel. Those tables are not there to set an overpriced slushy and box of candy on however.
The Rosebud’s final distinctive feature is the full drink and food menu that is offered. A big change from its original popcorn-only beginnings, the theater now serves a full menu including pizza that is delivered to you in your seat. The drink selection also reflects the adult, comfortable atmosphere it has taken on. “This place is for adults or people that act like adults.” Widen said, “That’s good enough for me.”
There is no syrupy slushy here, instead a more adult selection that appeals to its customers are on tap. While soda can always be found, a variety of draft beers, including a few Milwaukee labels to stay true to its roots, house wines and mixers are all available providing a truly relaxing evening.
The Rosebud hides a special aspect high above the main seating, which almost no one knows about. A product of the remodeling, a few select comfortable chairs sit high over the rest of the crowd in a private box. Pulling back a curtain allows the owners, their families and a few lucky people that buy the box at an auction to have a perfect view of the movie. “It is a private box and I like keeping it that way” said Widen.
While this living room type movie theater seems like an ingenious idea, only a few places around the country are like the Rosebud. “You’d think something like this everyone would jump on it” said Widen. The secret may be well hidden, but the patrons that frequent here are not complaining.
“Our audience tends to skew a little on the older side” said Widen. While many theaters thrive on the teenage audience, and the Tosa Theater once did, the Rosebud likes being a place for adults to escape to.
The movies that are shown directly reflect the audience it has. The Rosebud has stayed with its roots and shows a wide range of movies, from mainstream to more under-the-radar films. Widen said he screens every film before he decides to run it. “I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of the audience” said Widen. He tries not to let his own judgment stop him from playing films others might like. “Sometimes I’ve got to throw in a romantic comedy for the soccer moms” said Widen.
Widen plans on making sure the Rosebud stays a part of Wauwatosa for many more years to come. While its sister theater, The Times Theater, is planning on getting a face lift soon, the Rosebud has found its niche and plans on keeping it. While a multiple screen theater is not possible in its location, what will come next is always on the owners’ minds. “We’re always thinking about it” said Widen. A new location is also being tossed around, but when asked where that might be, Widen answered, “I’d have to kill ya if I told you.”
The Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse is a unique theater experience that has changed hands and audiences, but still continues to thrive. While the rich history of the theater is still apparent, it provides a new and innovative way to go out to the movies and still get the comfort of home.

rivest266 on October 16, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Small grand opening ad is on this page at
View link

TLSLOEWS on October 18, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Nice offical website for the Rosebud.

vclamp on February 22, 2012 at 6:27 am

A sad day indeed. “Times and Rosebud theaters to permanently close” article links:,69667/

The land was purchased in 2007 at the height of the ‘real’ estate bubble, and now there is now way the bank will help them recover.

BigScreen_com on February 22, 2012 at 7:15 pm

The Times and Rosebud aren’t completely down, the bank is talking about having former owner Joy Hollis run the theaters in receivership.

New life for Rosebud, Times theaters? –

Here are some photos of the Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse, including when it was still the Tosa Cinema:

Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse Photo Gallery –

LouRugani on February 22, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Former owner Jay Hollis has been hired to manage and keep the TIMES and ROSEBUD open while a search convenes for a new owner. AnchorBank of Madison had foreclosed on the mortgages, but the bank said today that the theaters will remain open. Hollis, a former painting contractor, created the Rosebud in 1999 after redoing the former Tosa Theater, and sold it in 2007. After owner David Glazer said the two theaters would close during the first week of March 2012, AnchorBank spokesman Timothy Carter said Hollis was hired by Siegel-Gallagher, the court-appointed receiver of the properties, to begin operating the theaters beginning March 1 throughout receivership while a new owner is found. Byron Butler, the senior vice president of marketing at AnchorBank, called Hollis “the original visionary” and said it was appropriate to continue operation with such a leader.

CSWalczak on April 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm

This theater and another in Milwaukee are now closed but may reopen after all of their current financial troubles are resolved: View link

Trolleyguy on August 23, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Current website:

JerryEiff on March 14, 2019 at 10:34 am

Undoubtedly one of the areas most well run and comfortable neighborhood theaters. It offers wine, pizza and other upscale items and couch seating. Like sitting in your living room. No chance of closing or not running first run movies anymore.

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