448 Milwaukee Avenue,
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Plaza Theater (Official)
Previously operated by: Community Circuit Theaters
Architects: J. Mandor Matson
Functions: Movies (First Run)
Previous Names: Plaza Theatre
The Plaza Theatre first opened in 1927 with a single screen. Located on Milwaukee Avenue it now operates as a four-screen, first-run movie house. It is owned by Kevin and Janell Alvarez and features a newly-remodeled concession stand with free popcorn and soda refills.
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May 26, 1953: Willard L. Uglow
PALMYRA â€" Funeral services for Willard L. Uglow, 56, former
Palmyra resident who died in Burlington, were held there Saturday
with burial in the Burlington Cemetery.
The son of William and Mary Bucks Uglow, he was born Nov. 2, 1897, in Palmyra . He was married to Doris Steele, Whitewater, in 1919. He opened the Crystal Theater in Burlington and formerly owned the State Theater there before retiring.
Surviving are his wife and a son, William, at home.
Poblocki & Sons bought the run-down Plaza Theatre in 1953 and renovated it the following year to demonstrate Ben and Barney Poblocki’s contention that declining theater attendance was often the result of operators' failure to update their houses. As the Plaza is still open, perhaps there was something to their belief in the power of modernization.
This article in Boxoffice of October 2, 1954, has before and after photos of the Plaza’s front. The entire project, including design, was carried out in house by Poblocki & Sons.
I’m glad the Poblocki’s only modernized the lower part of the facade, and kept that delightful Gothic detail on the upper story.
1927 – Rumors circulate about the construction of a new theater next to the Agner Auto Co. garage on Geneva Street.
1928 – The Plaza Theater opens at the Agner site; over 1,200 in attendance. Vaudeville acts added later in the year.
1930 – New sound equipment installed at the Plaza and at the Crystal.
1931 – Kapitan, son of canine movie star Rin Tin Tin, appears live at the Plaza.
1931 – Stink bombs set off at the Crystal and Plaza.
1933 – Cowboy singing legend Gene Autry appears at the Plaza.
1938 – New air conditioning equipment installed at the Plaza.
1951 – Plaza remodeled; new candy counter and mural of Echo Lake are added.
1952 – Presidential candidate Harold E. Stassen speaks at the Plaza.
1953 – Plaza outfitted for three-dimensional films. Later in the year the screen is adjusted to accommodate wide-screen showings.
1989 – Steve and Dana Lind buy Plaza Theater from Mary Jane Faust.
1997 – $1.1 million three-screen addition added to Plaza.
The entry for Racine architect J. Mandor Matson on a list of theater architects in the April 28, 1928, issue of Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World includes the Plaza Theatre in Burlington, Wisconsin, among his recent works.
Co-owner Shad Branen is determined that the Plaza Theater and Geneva Theater in Lake Geneva will survive the current coronavirus shutdown and will re-emerge as cultural centers. Branen and his staff are using this downtime to complete some cleaning and interior renovation work on the theatres, repairing damaged seats and more. The lobby floor has been seal-coated. Computer software has been upgraded. Walls that needed touching up were painted.
“We will be opening up better and cleaner,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to do cleaning and improvements throughout the buildings.”
The Plaza Theatre floors have been stripped and epoxy-sealed, a process that typically requires 24 hours to dry, something near impossible when the theater is operational. The Plaza was fourplexed, closed briefly due to bankruptcy, and reopened approximately 20 years ago to its previous owner. Branen has owned the theater for 11 years.
Branen also owns Mercantile Hall, a wedding venue located at 425 N. Pine St., in Burlington. He said that he has approximately 20 employees total between the two theatres, with a dozen who work at the Plaza, and some employees at work at both facilities.
While the Plaza offers curbside concessions during limited hours on Friday and Saturday, Branen said the COVID-19 has forced him to furlough “virtually the entire staff.” Luckily, Branen was recently approved for a paycheck protection program which will allow him to bring back some of his staff. But he looks forward to resuming normal operations as soon as possible. “It’s all a waiting game,” Branen said. “Everyone is anxious to get back to work.”
Movie studios currently are not releasing any new movies to theaters. “The biggest challenge theaters will face when reopening is what products will be available from the studios,” Branen.
Some studios have released films instead to online streaming services, but Branen said he is not worried about it. “I think there will always be a place for movie theaters,” he said, “because people like to go out.”
he Plaza Theatre announced plans to offer drive-in movies in the Reineman’s True Value parking lot across from the theatre. The Plaza had offered classic pictures at the lot every August for years on its two-story inflatable screen. This year, owner Shad Branen said they plan to screen new pictures outdoors as well.The lot will be limited to 50 vehicles. Audio will be broadcast through an FM radio frequency. Studios delayed the release of new pictures and suspended production for those slated to come out later this year. For this Saturday, the Plaza plans to screen the Disney and Pixar animated film “Onward,” which was what was showing at the Plaza when it closed in March. Patrons will pay $25 per vehicle which will include a $5 certificate for concessions either delivered to their vehicle or picked up themselves, though masks and social distancing is requested. The Plaza’s restrooms will also be available.
The show starts at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Reservations will be taken only through plaza4.com and the Plaza Theatre’s Facebook page.
The Feb. 20, 1960 Motion Picture Herald had a short article about Ben Poblocki, patriarch of the Poblocki & Sons sign company of Milwaukee.
“Six years ago … Ben Poblocki … decided to be an exhibitor himself. He bought the 600-seat Plaza in Burlington, Wis., and later added a drive-in at Grafton, the Highway 57, plus a drive-in restaurant adjoining the outdoor theatre. Recently he sold all of those properties … The Plaza theatre was sold to Lauren Husten, who operates the Troy in East Troy, and the Ford in Waterford, Wis.”
G.F. Kelliher built the Plaza Theatre in downtown Burlington in 1927 and completing it in early 1928. Just prior to its launch, Kelliher sold it and the Grand Theatre in East Troy to Community Theatres Inc. Community launched here on February 15, 1928. Prior to its 60th Anniversary, the threatre was converted to a quad-plex relaunching with a grand reopening at 1928 prices on June 7, 1987.