Avalon Theatre To Return

posted by JimRankin on March 14, 2005 at 8:22 am

MILWAUKEE, WI — Thanks to the eagle eyes of Hugh Swofford comes this: according to a story in Friday’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the 1929 AVALON on Milwaukee’s south side in the former village of Bay View, is in the process of being purchased by a local investor, and it looks as though the Landmark chain of movie houses, which includes the ORIENTAL and the DOWNER in Milw., will be the operator of this “atmospheric” type cinema which closed five years ago.

After several false starts, it now appears that a deal in earnest, not relying upon a land contract, will come to be, and if so we will then have a grand total of 2 operating movie palaces remaining in the city, out of the 20 we once had (this excludes the DOWNER and the TIMES and the remodeled TOSA (the ROSEBUD CINEMA) which are not really palaces).

I note with favor the kind wishes of Jay Hollis, the proprietor of the ROSEBUD, when he graciously bows out of the Bay View picture by canceling plans for his ROSEBUD-SOUTH that was to be built but a few blocks south of the AVALON, yet gives the AVALON best wishes for success. Rumor has it that he did try to purchase the AVALON, but the price disclosed in the article mentioned, was too high for his means.

This now brings up the question of whether or not the Wurlitzer pipe organ that provided so many fine concerts in the theatre, and which had to be removed just a few months ago due to deteriorating conditions in there, will now be reinstalled to once again entertain so many in Dairyland Theatre Organ Society’s annual concerts. It would be an irony that it took the removal of the organ to possibly galvanize outsiders into seriously contemplating the future of the ornate theatre, only to have to spend to now return the organ, if that is to be.

Let us hope that the new owner will be sympathetic to Dairyland’s interests, unlike the RIVERSIDE’s management which reportedly demands upwards of $10,000 in advance for Dairyland to perform their own organ in there!

Speaking of pipe organs, Dairyland has just mailed a flyer telling of their next concert to be held in Sheboygan, Sunday, April 3rd at 3PM. It is to be in a converted movie palace which is now the WEILL CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS at 826 N. 6th St., Sheboygan WI. The talented Clark Wilson (remember him for his sojourn at the long-gone Pipe Organ Pizza on Oklahoma Ave.?) will provide a mixed show at $18 general admission at the door, day of show.

For the first time, they will also offer a chartered bus departing from four park&ride lots, two in Milwaukee, and one each in Kenosha and Racine, for only $20 including ticket; that is a $2 bus trip, almost as cheap as local transit fare! E-mail me for any additional information desired or phone the Organ Piper Pizza, which is selling cheaper advance sale tickets, at: 414-529-1177.

Let us keep our fingers crossed as to a brighter future for the venerable AVALON. I will be contacting Mr. Barczak regarding historic references about the theatre, in case he is interested in a goodly restoration, so if anyone wants to volunteer to help in that effort, possibly by forming a Friends of the Avalon, do let me know and I will inform him. Possibly he will be encouraged by outside interest. I once sent such a documented proposal to the current owner, but he did not even reply.

“Theatrically” yours, Jim ()
P.O. Box 14455, West Allis, WI 53214

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