Milwaukee, WI - Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra hopes to acquire Grand Theatre for its future home

posted by ThrHistoricalSociety on December 14, 2016 at 11:53 am


From the Milwaukee Business Journal: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is hoping to restore the historic Warner Grand Theatre on West Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee and start performing in the venue in fall 2019.

The acquisition and rehab of the building at 214 W. Wisconsin Ave. is part of a $120 million fundraising effort by the MSO that also will increase its endowment and raise bridge funding, said Mark Niehaus, the group’s president and executive director. The MSO currently plays in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on North Water Street, where it is not master of its own scheduling.

Rehabbing the 1930s-era Grand movie theater will let the MSO generate more revenue and become less dependent on donations, Niehaus said. It also will bring thousands of people to West Wisconsin Avenue for weekend performances and contribute to the revitalization of that area of downtown Milwaukee.

“We see ourselves not only fitting into it, we see ourselves as an instigator, as the prime reason people come to West Wisconsin Avenue,” Niehaus said.

The theater is across Wisconsin Avenue from The Shops of Grand Avenue. The owners of that mall are looking to redevelop it into upper-floor office space, a grocery story and a ground-floor marketplace. Bringing more bodies to West Wisconsin Avenue would support that vision.

The MSO tallied $17 million in revenue in its 2015-’16 season, achieving a sales and attendance record, and a balanced budget for three years running. But owning and controlling its own theater space would open more opportunities, Niehaus said.

For starters, the MSO had to stop playing shows in the Marcus Center Dec. 3 to make way for the Milwaukee Ballet’s The Nutcracker 2016. Holiday shows are a big stream of revenue for other symphonies, Niehaus said, citing the $2.2 million earned in December by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Also, the MSO can only schedule performances in the Marcus Center 12 to 18 months out, which makes it difficult to book national conductors to come to Milwaukee, Niehaus said.

Full story, photo gallery at:

ABOUT THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Founded by Ben Hall in 1969, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres.

Learn more about historic theatres in the THS American Theatre Architecture Archives and on our website at


Comments (1)

ClassicMusicLover on December 10, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Is someone aware of who currently owns the Warner Theatre in Milwaukee and would thus be the “seller” to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra? What is the sale price?

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment