Toy Theater

720 N. Second Street,
Milwaukee, WI 53203

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TOY Theatre; Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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The Toy Theater was a silent movie theater that was located in Milwaukee. This theater opened in 1915 and closed in 1924.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

JimRankin
JimRankin on January 7, 2005 at 11:57 am

The TOY theatre was not named so because it was small, though 460 seats would make it far from the largest, but due to the fact that the principal original tenant of the six story commercial building was Toy’s Chinese Restaurant. The skeleton letter light bulb sign projected from the facade with the upper frame reading “Toy’s Chop Suey” and the lower frame reading “Toy Theatre” with lines at bottom to put in the title or actor of the day. A loggia with upturned eaves of clay tiles adorned the second story above the entry on the floor below. Along with brass Oriental lanterns illuminating the loggia, the copings flanking the steep mansard of tiles at the roof line were terminal coping pieces of dragons in terra cotta to further advance the theme. While nothing is known of the theatre’s portion of the building, it is known that the restaurant sported winged dragon sculptures atop the square, dark wood columns and beams, so likely the cinema was similarly decorated. The building was most notable for housing many of the city’s early film exchanges in the early days. By time the TOY ceased operating in 1924, the movie palaces were coming upon the scene, and modest cinemas like this were difficulty to adapt in so small a size, so conversion to other uses was customary. When the building was demolished to make way for a new brick office building (itself demolished in the 80s), Milwaukee lost one of its few Chinese themed structures, though surviving examples of a unique Chinese-themed chain of gasoline stations from that day do still keep the sight alive in some areas. Ironically, the Toy restaurant survived several moves over the years and only went out of business recently, long after any memory of a Chinese theatre that probably never showed Chinese language films was long gone too. The TOY was also called the PARADISE and the IMPERIAL at different times. The TOY was designed by local architect Alexander Guth.

JimRankin
JimRankin on March 7, 2006 at 1:21 pm

Some views of this building appear as postcards in Larry Widen’s recent book “Vintage Milwaukee Postcards” and will also likely appear in his soon-to-be-released book “Silent Screens,” a sequeal to his 1986 “Milwaukee Movie Palaces.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 15, 2010 at 5:44 am

Here is a photo of the Toy Theatre, clipped from volume 1 of a 1922 publication, “History of Milwaukee” by William George Bruce and Josiah Seymour Currey (scan available at Google Books.)

It looks like there was another theater right next door to the Toy.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on September 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Nice photo Joe, your right looks like another theatre next door.

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