Milwaukee Movie History
The following is some information from the movie theater history of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Larry Widen has generously supplied The BigScreen Cinema Guide with the following information and photos excerpted from his book "Milwaukee Movie Palaces," by Larry Widen and Judi Anderson. The book has over 100 photos of old Milwaukee theaters.
Created August 22, 2003. Updated December 13, 2005.
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There were a large number of theaters located on the south side before Word War II. The Kosciuszko was a popular neighborhood theater that opened in 1915 at the corner of 14th and Lincoln.
Located on Wisconsin Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets, the Butterfly was one of Milwaukee's most ornate theaters. It opened in September, 1912 and featured over 3,000 lightbulbs on the exterior. The Butterfly was torn down in 1930 to make way for the Warner Theater.
Going to a movie at one of the theaters downtown was an exciting experience. In 1943, Roy Rogers and Trigger made a guest appearance outside the Wisconsin Theater, located at 6th and Wisconsin Avenue. The Wisconsin was twinned and renamed the Cinemas 1 and 2 in the 1960's. The theater closed and was torn down in 1986.
With nearly 2,000 seats and a fabulous Barton organ, the huge National theater was one of Milwaukee's "movie palaces." It opened in 1928 near 27th and National. The theater was torn down in 1971 to make way for a housing project.
View Historical Theaters in Milwaukee, WI in a larger map
Milwaukee Movie Theaters...Did You Know?
- The first motion pictures were shown in Milwaukee in 1896
- The Downer Theater, opened in 1915, is Milwaukee's oldest continuously operating theater
- The X-rated Princess Theater on 3rd Street was actually opened in 1904 as the Grand
- Milwaukee first shopping center theater was the Southgate
- The Oriental opened in 1927 at a cost of $1.5 million
- Ben Marcus bought his first Milwaukee theater, the Tosa, in 1940
- The Avalon on S. Kinnickinnic Avenue was the first Milwaukee theater equipped for talking pictures.
All information and photos from "Milwaukee Movie Palaces," by Larry Widen and Judi Anderson. The book has over 100 photos of old Milwaukee theaters but is no longer available in print. His latest book about Milwaukee's theaters, "Silver Screens," is being published by the Wisconsin State Historical Society and will be available in September 2006.
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