Majestic Theatre

5715-5717 Sixth Avenue,
Kenosha, WI 53140

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Additional Info

Architects: Charles O. Augustine

Styles: Italian Renaissance

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MAJESTIC Theatre; Kenosha, Wisconsin.

This was a very popular storefront photoplay theatre on Main Street (now Sixth Avenue), operated by well-known Kenoshan Charles Pacini who had a chain of small theatres in Kenosha including the Lincoln Theatre and Butterfly Theatre. Opened on December 4, 1909, the Majestic Theatre was his flagship theatre and the most prominent Main Street showplace until the Orpheum Theatre (II) opened one block south on March 14, 1922. The Majestic Theatre seated perhaps 300.

Interior photographs have not surfaced but there are a few photos of the exterior at the time of a Charlie Chaplin program, showing heavy use of posters and other promotional materials. Kenoshans still associate the Majestic Theatre with the mysterious and still-unsolved murder of exhibitor Charles Pacini, the story of which rivalled any of the drama ever seen on his theatre screens. In September 1923, the Majestic Theatre premiered the locally-produced itinerant film “The Belle of Kenosha”.

On July 9, 1927, facing competition from the new Kenosha Theatre, the Majestic Theatre was closed and converted to retail space, and when the building was demolished in the mid-1960’s for a new Walgreen’s store (still there in 2005), it was housing the Badger Paint and Hardware, with most of the original façade still intact.

Contributed by Louis Rugani

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

LouRugani on April 27, 2016 at 7:22 pm

The MAJESTIC Theatre opened on Saturday, August 17, 1912. (Research courtesy Al Westerman.)

LouRugani on March 22, 2018 at 3:52 pm

(Kenosha News, September 14, 1964)

In movies 52 years, Ernst Nicolazzo pictures career as projectionist

It was almost exactly 52 years ago when Ernst Nicolazzo walked into the Majestic Theater on Main St. in downtown Kenosha to repair 10 fans which didn’t work. The theater manager, surprised at Nicolazzo’s mechanical ability, asked him if he knew how to run a projection machine. Nick said he did. That affirmative answer started Italian-born Nick on a lifelong career. With but two major interruptions, he’s been a movie grinder ever since. Ernst Nicolazzo is the only surviving charter member of Local 361 of the projection operators' union. The union’s name is longer than most three movies put together — International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes and Moving Picture Machine Operators of the United States and Canada. Whew!

After being in on the formation of the local in 1913, Nick helped charter it in 1914. Recently, he was guest of honor at a dinner honoring his 50 years in the local. Nick wears a ring given to him for his 50 years of service. Nicolazzo worked at the Majestic Theater in Kenosha until 1918 when he enlisted in the Army. After a year’s duty, he returned here to work as a projectionist in the Butterfly Theater until 1923, then back to the Majestic for five more years. For 27 years, from 1923 until 1955, Nick worked at the Kenosha Theater. Then a bout with tuberculosis kept him away from theaters for 18 months. He came through this ordeal (“but did lose four ribs and a lung”, he said) and wanted to get back into the projection business. His physician recommended he not climb the 76 steps to the projection booth of the Kenosha Theater every day, so in August of 1957 Nicolazzo took a job as projectionist at the Mid City Outdoor Theater.

How long does he hope to continue in the projection business? As long as he’s able to do the job. he said. “Right now, I feel like I could go till I’m 100”, he said. “I can remember when movies cost a nickel,” Nick said. "Later the price went up to 18 cents, but a bag of popcorn was thrown in with the admission price,” he added. “People in the old days were more cost-conscious about admission prices than they are now,” Nick continued. "If the price went up, people were more likely not to come inside,” he said. Projection techniques are different today than years back, too, Nick said. "Before we had ‘talkies’, if the crowd was too big, we’d just grind the movie through a little faster. Now the movies feed through the projector at an even 90 feet per minute,” he added. Whereas breaks in film and splices were big problems for the projectionist years back, today he must worry more about electrical and sound difficulties.

There are fewer members in Local 361 today than there were back in 1914. The 25 members of 50 years ago has shrunk to about half that number today. “There used to be two projectionists for every theater, but now there’s only one,” Nick explained. Then too, such ‘homes’ for actors as the Rhode Opera House have long since disappeared.

Nicolazzo, who never married, lives with the Harvey Ewings at Paddock Lake. He drives into town twice a day, works five hours a day at his job at Mid City. One of these five hours each day is spent getting the film ready for showing. Nicolazzo likes children, and the way he treats them, it’s little wonder the opposite is true, too. He takes them to the show, buys them ice cream or other goodies, and invites them to spend weekends with him at Paddock Lake. His principal hobby is his garden. “I grow everything people say you can’t grow,” he said. Nick says his specialty is tomatoes, but he doesn’t do too bad with corn, either. “Back in 1962. my corn was 10 feet tall. I got lost in it,“ Nick said with a grin. Nick admits his interest in mechanics dates far back. He’s certainly expanded on that interest since he went to fix those fans 52 years ago.

LouRugani on July 1, 2023 at 10:19 pm

The Majestic Theater was established in 1909 by the partnership of Italian immigrants Ciali (Charles) Pacini, Joseph Unti and Dominic Lencioni of Kenosha. The Majestic was located in a building owned by the estate of Rasmus O. Gottfredson. Though a lease agreement would have been approved, it was not recorded with the Register of Deeds. Prior to their lease agreement, the building had been occupied by the Oscar Robbel Laundry. The grand opening of the Majestic was held on Saturday, December 4, 1909 following the conversion of the building into a moving picture and music playhouse. The Majestic closed around April 27, 1912 when its last advertisement appeared in the Kenosha Evening News. When it re-opened on Saturday, August 17, 1912, it was called the New Majestic Theater. The Monday, August 19, 1912 issue of the Kenosha Evening News gave rave reviews about the New Majestic Theater, reporting eight shows on Saturday attracted 2100 patrons. The theater had been renovated with soft concrete floors and expanded seating. Most noticeable was the installation of the first “daylight pictures” system in Kenosha, where films were shown on a mirror screen 110 feet from the projector. The article said the picture on the screen was of such clarity that the theater was lighted at all times.

At the re-opening, Charles Pacini was the sole proprietor, Unti and Lencioni having left the partnership. Dominic Lencioni started his own business, a confectionery store. at 69 N. Main Street (5030 6th Avenue) in Kenosha. Joseph Unti left the theatrical business to work as a clerk for Dominic Unti at his confectionery at 317 Main Street (5824 6th Avenue) in Kenosha.

On July 21, 1913, the Majestic closed again for four days for the installation of new leather seats and other interior and exterior improvements. Pacini assured the public the Majestic would continue with the best in pictures, music and general features. On April 25, 1919, Catherine Gottfredson became sole owner of the property and building as the beneficiary of a last will & testament, and by then, Pacini had established the Charles Pacini Amusements pmanagement company, with the motto “Go where the crowd goes.”

On December 29, 1919, the Kenosha Evening News reported on an ambitious expansion of the New Majestic Theater by Charles Pacini Amusements. Pacini had secured possession of the Matt D. Schmidt Building just to the north of the theater. The addition would have doubled the seating capacity to about 1,000, and the project was expected to begin in March, 1920 and be finished by early summer. On June 10, the Kenosha Evening News reported that builder George Lindemann of Kenosha was awarded the contract by Charles Pacini Amusements to enlarge the New Majestic, and the architect chosen was Kenoshan Charles Augustine (who would later design Kenosha’s 1927 Roosevelt Theatre). The cost of rebuilding the theater was estimated at $85,000. There would be two foyers opening into the enlarged auditorium, a right and left balcony with special exits for safety, a large organ and enlarged orchestra pit, a smoking room for the gentlemen and a lounge for the ladies. Pacini anticipated completion around November 1. But those hopes abruptly ended with the murder of Charles Pacini on August 15, 1920, shot by a lone assailant a block east at his car after he’d closed the Majestic for the evening. Though the expansion was cancelled, his estate under Charles Pacini Amusements continued with the operation of the Majestic and his other theaters. But on March 17, 1921, the Telegraph Courier reported the sale of all of Pacini’s theatrical properties and interests including the leases for the Strand, New Majestic and Butterfly Theaters to the Saxe-Dayton Orpheum Theatre Company for $100,000. The Saxe-Dayton Company was a merger of the interests of John E. and Thomas E. Saxe of Milwaukee and Edward and Fred L. Dayton of Kenosha. Willard C. Welch of Saxe Amusement Enterprises was installed as manager of the Majestic Theater, Saxe-Dayton dropping the “New” from its title to call it Saxe’s Majestic. By early 1924, Edward Dayton took over its management. But by that December, the theater stopped advertising its listings in local newspapers, and it was not until October 1925 when advertisements resumed, and during all of 1926 the Majestic’s programs were overwhelmingly dominated by a Westerns. Then on February 2, 1927, building owner Catherine Gottfredson entered into a lease agreement with the Kenosha Orpheum Theater Company calling for a monthly payment of $400 for a period of 15 years. The manager was James L. Morrissey. Still, it appears the Majestic theater may have closed that summer, as its last advertisement in a local newspaper was on July 9, 1927. On the following December 20, the Kenosha Orpheum Theater Company subleased the theater to Midwesco Theaters Inc. at the same rates as its then-current lease with Catherine Gottfredson. It is unknown if the Majestic re-opened following the sublease, as no advertisements were placed in the local newspapers during all of 1928. On December 11 of that year the Kenosha Evening News reported that Cunningham’s Clothing Store had leased the Majestic Theater from Fox-Midwesco Enterprises for a period of 14 years, the final curtain after nineteen years at Kenosha’s Majestic Theatre.

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