Bradley Symphony Center

212 W. Wisconsin Avenue,
Milwaukee, WI 53203

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Showing 101 - 125 of 131 comments

Patsy
Patsy on May 12, 2006 at 5:11 am

Hal T: After reading your post I hope that this former Warner finds someone with deep pockets! Even though I’m a purist and love to see the single screen venues kept I also know that it isn’t reality, unfortunately. The fact that this theatre was once a Warner theatre makes saving it even more important and historical! Does the City of Milwaukee have a preservation group or historical society that is concerned?

Hal
Hal on May 12, 2006 at 4:57 am

Before I say anything else, let me preface my comments by stating that I feel this theatre needs to be preserved! That being said, anyone who thinks they or anyone else is going to go in there, refurbish it and try to run it as a movie theatre, is in for a rude awakening! There is a reason that single screen theatres bit the dust (especially downtown ones), they are not financially feasable! Look at all the movie theatres that used to line Wisconsin Ave. and just off Wisconsin Ave., Palace, Esquire, Cinema 1&2, Strand,
Towne and on and on, only the Riverside still stands,
and you’ll note as a live performance house, not a
film house. The Milwaukee Symphony has said “thanks,
but no thanks” to using the Grand, do in no small part to the huge expense of refurbishing it. Also, parking is a pain in the butt, which is a major issue for the
modern movie theatre, unless there is a large residential area that can walk to it, but this isn’t
New York either! The only way this theatre is going to
survive is if someone can come up with an alternative
use for it, and Milwaukee needs another performing
arts space like it needs a hole in it’s head. So
what’s the answer? I have no idea, but if this
building is going to survive, someone better come up with an idea and some cash pretty quick! And you can bet that there will be alot of screaming and yelling if that alternative idea is an indoor tennis court!

JimRankin
JimRankin on May 5, 2006 at 6:21 am

The blueprints are on microfilm at the City Records Center, basement of the Municipal Bldg.,; about 40 pages which can be printed out there for around a dollar a page. Photos are available for a fee given on the ARCHIVE page of www.historictheatres.org

A U. of Wis. at Milw. thesis has already been done on this subject under the May 2004 title: “Adaptation and Reuse of the 1930 Warner Theater” by graduate Charles Matthew Jenkins; approx. 100 pages and the only copy is in the School of Architecture’s Resources Center and does NOT circulate, though it can be photocopied in that room only on their dismal copying machine. By the way, the theatre opened on May 4, 1931, in contrast to what his title says.

Patsy
Patsy on May 4, 2006 at 4:30 pm

Mr. Jim Rankin knows much about this theatre as it is in his hometown!

Patsy
Patsy on May 4, 2006 at 4:29 pm

Kari Ann: This sounds too nice to be ficticious. Good luck.

bbdoll4ever
bbdoll4ever on May 4, 2006 at 12:34 pm

I am doing a ficticious project (as an interior designer) for my Senior Level project and I would like to know if anyone has access to the blueprints/CAD drawings for this building— I would like to have the cinema refurbished to original splendor and add in addition a boutique type hotel above the cinema in matching Art Deco fashion. Please email me with any tidbits of information or interior photos you may have. Thanks!!

Patsy
Patsy on April 14, 2006 at 10:23 am

David L. Williamson: You wrote on 8/20/04….“Last year I was in Green Bay, downtown and saw that they have restored a beautiful theater built in 1929. They have kept and preserved many of their old downtown buildings.” Do you have exterior/interior photos of the theatre in Green Bay? And what is the name of that theatre?

Patsy
Patsy on April 14, 2006 at 10:03 am

I’ve been comparing photos between the above photo and the one seen in an issue of Marquee magazine. The vertical Warner sign is long gone after the name change to Grand Theater. “Mo one can figure out how to make a sure long term profit when the city has said that it will NOT come to the financial rescue of the property.” These are sad words from an 8/29/05 post. The interior photos as seen in Marquee show it to be very opulent and worth coming to a financial rescue!

JimRankin
JimRankin on August 9, 2005 at 8:46 am

The “guide books” ‘angus’ refers to are quite wrong in saying that the PORTLAND PARAMOUNT is “identical” to Milwaukee’s former WARNER. While the two do have some grillework in common, the grilles are of different designs and most of the rest of the auditoriums and lobbies are also quite different. Closer to the Milwaukee WARNER is the WARNER in Erie, PA., though that theatre’s fabulous 1920s marquee with stained glass corners and light bulb chasers still survives and operates as a civic performing arts center!

As to Marcus Entertainment Corp. wanting a place downtown, that may be true if it were a new multiplex, but I believe that their statement is more —as the government always puts it— ‘for public consumption’ and I think that the real story is that the city fathers leaned heavily on Marcus to make the then-proposed Pabst City Development look more positive to the taxpayers (who through their aldermen subsequently denied the eagerly wanted loan from the city of a mere $41,000,000 to help all the businesses concerned get a guaranteed return on their very speculative proposed investment of converting the long vacant former Pabst brewery buildings into a claimed boon to the city). Always watch out when investors want someone else’s money to take the risk! If a business plan has a reasonable chance of success in the long haul, any buisness with the capitol will ante up for the profits they expect. If they don’t really expect long term success, they try to get others to take the risk, while they content themselves with the short term profits, and then abandon the property. This is one of the reasons that the WARNER/GRAND has been vacant for so long: no one can figure out how to make a sure long term profit when the city has said that it will NOT come to the financial rescue of the property.

WPilgreen
WPilgreen on August 8, 2005 at 4:55 pm

A little icing on the Warner/Grand frustration cake: refer to recent articles in the Journal Sentinel regarding the Pabst City project west of downtown. When Marcus signed an agreement to operate a ten-screen venue at Pabst City, a spokesman claimed that Marcus has been looking ‘for the past ten years’ for a way to re-enter the downtown Milwaukee movie market.

Marcus occupied the business floors of the Warner building for many years. In fact, when ‘film row’ along State Street vanished in the late fifties, most of the studios' sales and distribution offices serving the Milwaukee region gravitated to the Warner building – thus the handsome basement screening room Jim Rankin refers to above. As a sometime-guest of Marcus at screenings there I can attest that it was everything that movie-going in downtown Milwaukee in the sixties and seventies was not: comfortable, clean, a first-class surrounding – and, you could smoke!

Anyone interested in the design elements of the Warner might also look at the Portland (Oregon) Paramount, now the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. This handsome house, which some guidebooks claim is the identical twin of the Milwaukee Warner, has been splendidly restored and adapted.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 7, 2005 at 3:00 pm

The Warner Theatre was built on the site of the 1911 Butterfly Theatre which seated 1,500. It was demolished in February 1930.

The Warner Theatre opened on 1st May 1931 with the movie “Sit Tight” starring Joe E. Brown. Making a personal appearance at the opening was Warner Bros. star Bebe Daniels.

DonRosen
DonRosen on January 15, 2005 at 5:09 pm

The last big event at the Grand was the world premiere of FAIR GAME with the film’s star, Cindy Crawford, and her family, in attendance. I covered it “live” on WEZY and WRJN radio. Greg Marcus, who owned the radio stations at that time, also owned the theatre.

DavidHurlbutt
DavidHurlbutt on December 28, 2004 at 3:24 pm

The wonderful Warner always remained a film house showing popular American films. It was never leased to traveling stageshows, never a church and never a hard-core porno house. However, in the 1940s when everything closed between 12 and 3 on Good Friday, Good Friday services were held during those hours at the Warner, and in the 1950s along with the nearby Riverside, the Warner did show special- ticket televison prize fights projected on its giant screen.

JimRankin
JimRankin on August 21, 2004 at 2:03 pm

Remember, fellows, the way political life in most cities goes: ‘if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ as the politician says to his cronies in the trades/construction, one of the largest contributing bodies in any political arena. Contractors and architects need sites to build on, and as cities get older, there are fewer and fewer of these, so guess who approaches the politicians to get those old buildings torn down so that they can earn money building anew on them? Yes, the politicos: the ones always looking for campaign contributions! Such a mystery, huh? And when new theatres are to be built for millions, guess who sidles up to the politicians about discouraging any ‘bleeding heart liberals’ from wanting to preserve a possible competitor, even if the place has been closed for years. Money talks, people; in fact, it SCREAMS!! Milwaukee may have been known for clean government, but nowhere is THAT clean. And when you add in the human stew of countless egos, origins, and deep pockets, it is little wonder that there may suddenly be a surplus of stages at one time, but a dearth of them after a few years. It’s all called Free Enterprise.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on August 21, 2004 at 1:36 pm

Jim thanks for your detailed explanation surrounding the Warner/Grand. I afraid the City of Milwaukee proceeded with a master plan of building new theatres at the possible expense of putting in jeopardy its historic theatres like the Riverside and the Warner/Grand. Milwaukee is not the only city that has done this.Very few of the new theatres have the beauty of the historical theatres we all love. In New York City the first new theatres to built in decades to house the big musicals was the Minskoff and the Uris(Gershwin). The Minskoff as reviewers repeat over and over is the ugliest theatre on Broadway. The producers prefer the historic St.James,Shubert,Majestic,Imperial,Winter Garden,Broadway,Palace,Lunt-Fontannne and others before booking the Minskoff and Gerswhin. There has been a booking jam the last few years for the large musical houses so even these theatres stay booked on a regular basis. The next new theatre to be built in the 1980’s was the Marquis which was an improvement over the other two but still lacked the beauty of the historic structures. It wasn’t until the restoration of the New Amsterdam and the new reconstructed (Lyric/Apollo) Ford Center did Broadway have two more desirable theatres to house the big musicals.Even the non-profit Roundabout and Manhattan Theatre Club chose two historic theatres to restore the American Airlines (Selwyn) and the Biltmore to house there productions.I find in most cases people enjoy the restored theatre over the new.brucec

JimRankin
JimRankin on August 21, 2004 at 9:10 am

Warren, when I submitted the original article for the WARNER/GAND several years ago, I tried to enter the architects in the space provided, but evidently my Netscape program would not recognize some of their fields. My current Netscape 7.1 version will still not allow me to enter a name if it is not on their drop-down list. I don’t know why, or if it is a problem with their program. Long ago, they told me that they would look into the matter, but suggested that for now I simply use other browsers brands, which I am reluctant to do for personal reasons. I am sure that this will be corrected in time, since the fellows are now very busy with not only the daily maintenance of this site, but also a book to finish, as well as their day jobs!

JimRankin
JimRankin on August 21, 2004 at 7:15 am

To Bruce, Dave Williamson, and Porter Faulkner, et al, let me repeat that I am firmly with you in wanting the see the WARNER/GRAND restored, even down to the smallest detail if that is possible; I have merely been pointing out why, in Milwaukee, not much progress has been made, and perhaps on two fronts I have not been as helpful a I could have been. Firstly, to partially quote Bruce’s comment of the 19th: “One theatre downtown does not constitute a theatre district. brucec” He is quite right in that, of course, but Milw. does have an official “Theatre District” in the form of the PABST ( www.pabsttheater.org ) joined to the new MILWAUKEE CENTER wherein there are the modern ‘box’ theatres of the POWERHOUSE PLAYHOUSE, THE STEIMKE THEATRE, and THE STACKNER CABARET (a tiny dinner theatre) (see: www.milwaukeerep.com ). There is also the BROADWAY THEATRE CENTER nearby with three small theatres. And with the opening last October of the new MILWUKEE THEATRE ( www.milwaukeetheatre.org ), as well as the PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (with three theatres) ( www.marcuscenter.org ) plus the RIVERSIDE ( www.newriversidetheatre.com ) taking any shows not yet absorbed by the others, there is very little available to the WARNER/GRAND, even if it did enlarge its 15-foot-deep stage, a size FAR too shallow for any real scenic use. The Milw. metropolitan (4-county) area is, after all, only some 1.2 million, so the market is at best only “medium” in size and most touring groups will therefore assume that only one or two good full-house audiences are possible for them, and will therefore demand the largest seating size available that also has the technical requirements of their group. Believe me, they are NOT interested in the aesthetics of the decor of a venue; only if enough people will come and can be seated. During fair weather there is also the outdoor MARCUS AMPHITHEATRE with some 14,000 seats, and few groups demand more than that, but if so there is also the new moving-roof Brewer’s baseball stadium with 45,000 seats!

As to the present condition of the WARNER/GRAND, it is not as good as just after closing: three years ago a city water main burst and flooded the dark theatre up to the first floor, before anyone noticed and city crews showed up to turn off the water. The damage was extensive. The electrical service rooms are, of course, in the basement and when flooded, the master breakers inside the city’s power vault under the sidewalk behind the stage (another reason it is difficult to extend the stage with only modest expense) blew open, thus denying most all power to the theatre (but not the office building which has a separate feed). Thus, none of the auditorium/projection room lights work anymore, and the African zebra wood and mahogany paneling of the basement lounge is badly warped and virtually not replaceable (current ‘endangered species’ laws). Needless to say, all paint and gilt and much of the ornamental plaster on that level is ruined, thus those major restrooms down there are not accessible. Yes, the dividing floor of 1973 that created the Centre I & II has been removed, but now the open ‘sores’ of that alteration are now visible and need to be restored. The entire balcony front below the first crossover aisle was removed in those days, so that concrete and steel, as well as the original ornamental plaster front with its dozen spotlight holes must be rebuilt and reseated. When the dividing floor was installed, steel beams were thrust through the proscenium arch to connect to the steel columns inside the back stage wall, and this makes the flies totally unusable; this must be removed. The ornate organ screens were completely removed and now are only black acoustic material plainly nailed to a wooden superstructure over the old swell shutter holes; this must be restored somehow, even though the wonderful then 28-rank Kimball was removed to our ORIENTAL theatre long ago. Reportedly, the projection equipment has been removed and sold, so that is another expense for anyone wanting to reuse it for that purpose, though there is no longer any movie screen in the place, along with no draperies. The city steam equipment is now only partially working, and just barely keeps the place above freezing in our sometimes sub-zero climate, though there is some damage to the murals due to mildew, I’m told. The black exploitation audiences of the past tore many of the seats from the floor, and most of them (if not also mildewed) will have to be replaced. There is also visible water damage from rain leaks that need to be fixed. In the forthcoming Second Qtr. of MARQUEE magazine ( www.HistoricTyheatres.org ) will be my article: “Ornamentation Old and New: Grillework in Theatres” and therein will be a photo of one of the ten gilded ceiling grilles in the WARNER/GRAND and near it can be seen in that day-before-closing photo some of the peeling paint in just one inaccessible place that needs to be restored, along with stenciling on the ceiling. No, the theatre is not currently ready for an audience, even though the Symphony’s acoustics consultant said it is excellent acoustically even without the removed draperies. It will still take someone with lots of money to open it, even without adequate parking available. And, no, most Milwaukee area people will not readily walk to a venue, and now expect sheltered walkways connected to a patrolled parking structure within easy reach of a theatre in order to patronize it (remember that this is a heavy winter climate which can swing 135 degrees in temperature in a year). Bruce, maybe they are just spoiled, but that won’t help the WARNER/GRAND. Keep up the good wishes, everybody, and any letters to the mayor or newspaper, whose addresses are:
MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL www.jsonline.com

His Honor the Mayor, Tom Barrett
City Hall, 200 E. Wells St.
Milwaukee, WI 53201 USA

artdecodave
artdecodave on August 20, 2004 at 3:44 pm

I was in the Grand right before it closed and shot several pictures of the entire interior. I didn’t see anything that needed restoring. The theater has been well taken care of over the years. It had a false ceiling to divide the lower and upper several years ago so they could show 2 movies at the same time. I’m sure this could easily be removed. I don’t think updating the sound system would cost that much either. As far as parking goes, people who live in or frequent the downtown area, walk alot farther to bars or concerts or the festivals and attendance doesn’t seem to be hurting at any of these places. People have been going to the Oriental theater for many years and they don’t have a parking lot or structure. There has to be a building or lot near by that could be used for parking. I think re-opening the Grand would attract all kinds of business to this area. I read in the Journal a couple months ago, some of the near by buildings have been purchased to be used as condos. The downtown is thriving and growing again. Many new restaurants, bars and condos have opened recently and I’m sure there will be alot more. Milwaukee has lost many great theaters over the years. We can’t let the last of the great ones slip away and become a parking lot. Last year I was in Green Bay, downtown and saw that they have restored a beautiful theater built in 1929. They have kept and preserved many of their old downtown buildings.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on August 20, 2004 at 1:28 pm

The City of San Francisco could have saved the Fox for a million dollars back in the early 1960’s and this was one of the greatest movie palaces ever built. It was torn down in 1963 and would have been a great asset to the City. In the 1970’s the City was forced to build a new Symphony Hall that cost over $70 Million and then had to spend more money to correct the sound problems. In retrospect this was a very bad economic move that cost taxpayers a good deal of money.I look at the Music Center in LA which did nothing to help the historic downtown. It was like a fortress people would drive in from the suburbs into the parking structure and into the theatre.The money it cost to build the Music Center could have restored every major movie palace on Broadway and turned the area around.Instead every major department store closed and one by one every theatre slowly closed except the Orpheum. Its only due to lack of investment interest on Broadway that all these theatres are still there so LA got lucky.I applaud St Louis and Pittsburg for restoring/renovationg the St Louis and Loew’s Penn instead of building new Symphony Halls that nobody would love. Im not saying never build a new theatre but when you have historical structures already standing and could be converted for Symphony,Opera,Concerts and Dance then every avenue should be explored for doing so. Many cities regret today what they tore down yesterday.New York City regrets that Pennsylvania Train Station is no longer with us and its going to cost them millions of dollars to convert the old Post Office to replace the old station.Most major cities across the United States have restored at least two of there downtown movie palaces.brucec

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on August 20, 2004 at 12:04 pm

Thats why the city of Milwaukee needs a master plan. Speaking of Detroit, who’s downtown had one of the worse declines in the country, managed to save the Fox,State,Capitol(Opera House),Music Hall,Gem and Orchestra Hall.These theatres along with the stadiums built downtown has contributed to the revival of Downtown Detroit. I also understand that one can’t save every Downtown movie palace but when your down to your last two such as Milwaukee well I think the City should take notice. Philidelphia is another city down to there last movie palace the Boyd and if it hadn’t been for local protests the Boyd would already be gone. The Mayor of Chicago made a decision to help restore the Oriental and Palace instead of building new theatres. In New York City the historic legit theatres are the most desirable and the new theatres with the exception of the Marquis and Ford Center are not. The City of Boston in a master plan realized the need to restore three theatres to help revive a area of the theatre downtown district, the BF Keith Opera House,Paramount and the Modern. The Opera House has been restored,but the Paramount and Modern will be saved but not restored until sometime in the future.I will take your advice Jim and write a letter to Milwaukee but it is people who live there and in City government that have to have a plan.It might have to be joint effort between the public and the private sector. I don’t think Disney will ride to the rescue. Maybe the mayor and others in City government should take a trip to Cleveland and see how to revive a downtown that was in really bad shape.Mayors from all over the US have gone to Cleveland to see how to revive a downtown. Playhouse Square is at the top of the list.brucec

JimRankin
JimRankin on August 20, 2004 at 6:36 am

To be sure, it is true that a number of business people have looked over the WARNER/GRAND, but none of them aside from the Symphony were willing to take on even more modest restoration. They all discerned that it was not, as Mr. Faulkner puts it: “… a cash cow in waiting.” How much of a fortune would it cost to restore the WARNER? Well, I guess it depends upon just how realistic one’s plans are to reuse the space. If it needs extensive interior restoration, then it will have to be closed and thus non-profitable for that length of time, and if the stage and utilities need work, it will take that much longer. Some people may come to the unrestored theatre, but even if one gets an occupancy permit from the city, he quickly looses the public attitude of newness and curiosity that he seeks to get media attention as the new owner with a newly opened theatre. If cameras come, they will see the old dilapidated interior in need of work and the images in the media will not serve to draw the average patron until they see the COMPLETED work as evidence of what now warrants their interest. Thus, doing rehab in stages is not always economically wise, and if something is not economically wise, it will fail.

No, they don’t have to spend “$50 million” necessarily; that was to include, for the Symphony, a completely new building shell to encase the auditorium to better isolate it from greater street noise that one expects today, as opposed to 1931 when it opened. To hold off on the parking structure for later would be foolish, since there is very little street parking, the city will not help as described in my previous comment, and the Grand Avenue Mall’s parking structure amounts to a city block walk to the theatre, with no weather protection, and the owner of the mall want’s the new theatre owner to subsidize any use their mall by the theatre at night (parking there is not available during the daytime). No, they need not spend $5 million on the drapery, but if they are to restore just the stage drapery (Grand Drape and House Curtain) to 1931 original standard, it will cost upwards of a million for that, and the auditorium had at least ten other lavish drapery sets originally; they were an integral part of the lavish and successful decor of the WARNER, maybe the acoustics too. Mr. Faulkner is perfectly right: “These valuable assets to our community have to be saved urgently but also responsibly.” Perhaps from the vantage of his London, England, such things are easier to do, but in the USA that is not often the case; the few examples that could be cited reveal both political connections and/or an ‘angel’ of LARGE pocketbook to help such ventures take place. Notice the case of the UNITED ARTISTS theatre in Detroit ( /theaters/1934/ ) where the owner has declined to restore this wonderful —and last remaining of trio of such Gothic-themed spectacles— because of urban decay and costs, yet he did spend a fortune restoring their FOX Theatre. Are we to blame him for not seeing a return on his dollar from the UNITED ARTISTS, and possibly too small a return from the FOX? He was a good-hearted businessman with integrity who did a fine, responsible job on the FOX ( /theaters/51/ ), but evidently is best intentions are not enough to save another worthy, and smaller, theatre. Who will come forward for the WARNER? Again, Mr. Faulkner is right when he says: “Too often restoration goes too far and the theatre cannot sustain the ideal inflicted on it.” Yes, the WARNER is one in that class of opulence, but like the sterling restoration of the NEW AMSTERDAM ( /theaters/30/ ) it could cost so much that the available market may not be able to support it for long, just as we hope that spectacles that draw millions of ticket buyers will long continue for that theatre. Milwaukee has 2 other larger and newer theatres (not on this site) that now accommodate large Broadway shows or the like, so that is not a viable option for the WARNER. Would you like to come here and lend the WARNER your expertise, Mr. Faulkner? I hold the same invitation out to you that I extended to Bruce.

porterfaulkner
porterfaulkner on August 19, 2004 at 3:50 pm

Bruce, this is such an important issue to raise and I’m glad you have.

So many times on this site you see outrageous sums of money quoted as what is needed to restore a classic movie palace. As you pointed out there are many ways of doing this and sometimes that’s possible over a long period of time. It is possible to approach restoration with integrity and not have it turn into a ‘money is no object’ scenario.Not every restoration has to be on a par with the New Amsterdam.Not every theatre needs a stage space suitable for a
touring production of “The Lion King”

There are lots of movie theatres out there that need saving for regional arts centres,community theatre or even just movies and
there are many ways of offsetting the cost of this. We are reaching a dangerous position of scaring off local investment by quoting
outrageous and idealistic sums for immediate restoration. A recent
comment on this site mentions the cost of replacing drapery in a
movie palace costing $5 million. In what world would that be the case and who could blame a property owner or local authority for
reconsidering restoration.

Too often restoration goes too far and and the theatre cannot sustain the ideal inflicted on it.That passing Broadway show doesnt book the theatre because the local community cannot guarantee enough box office return or there is a more attractive location nearby. Then the beautifully restored theatre sits waiting to be used and in some cases closes because its running costs are so high.A truly lamentable situation.

These valuable assets to our community have to be saved urgently but also responsibly. Not every movie theatre costs a fortune to restore but also, not every movie theatre is a cash cow in waiting.

JimRankin
JimRankin on August 19, 2004 at 3:37 pm

I don’t know in what area you live Bruce, but your optimism is encouraging, yet I am not sure just how realistic in this city. Milwaukee has always been one of the most conservative (meaning stingy on a public scale) known, especially since its transformation by the Socialists after 1910, and the old German burghers' sentiment that one takes care of his family and relatives first, business second, the church third, taxes fourth, and if anything is left, it goes to local charity, not the city. Milw. is changing, what with over half of the city proper now being non-white who may have historically different sentiments, but the sad fact is that even if they do, they are almost all of the lower economic strata and thus unable to invest in the city’s improvement. Even before the Second World War, most of the city’s moneyed elite moved out to the suburbs and the city has survived largely on the blue collar workers left behind, while the wealthy still come into the city for its wide variety of sports and entertainment. They feel that if they pay for season tickets, they are doing all that should be expected of them, especially since they are traditionally much more generous to philanthropic charities of social causes, which does NOT include theatres. The Milw. Symphony failed in its attempt to raise the money necessary to convert the theatre, and with the ever increasing white flight from the inner city, there is no tax base for the city to use to help the owner, whoever that may come to be. I wrote extensively to the city and others to garner interest, and was politely told that the city cannot and will not help. Marcus evidently will do nothing, and they have blocked two attempts to designate it a local landmark in preparation for National Register of Historic Places listing which it will not get without local backing of the owner. No, this is not ‘hick town’ but neither is it Portland, Jersey City, or even Cleveland. If something makes a go of it here, it is entirely on its own, hence the old marketers' saying: “If it sells in Milw., it will sell anywhere!” A pretty city to live in with many blessings, but willingness to even help a worthy structure in stages, is not one of them. Not listed on this site because it was never primarily a cinema, is the WARD MEMORIAL THEATRE on the edge of the city; a federal enclave where the structure is from 1870 and of genuine Civil War theme and history, complete with a 40-ft-square stained glass equestrian mural of Ulysses S. Grant, among other features, but no one outside of the late Walter Liberace, who grew up across the street from it, came forward to offer to stave off its demolition due to decay, but his effort failed upon his death; it is still threatened with razing. If you are a man with moxie and money, Bruce, you are quite welcome to come here to assist, and I will even act as escort and guide, health permitting. Thank you for your good thoughts. PS: the former WARNER is not now in so good a shape, as I will tell you in detail if you send me your E-mail. Respectfully, Jim Rankin

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on August 19, 2004 at 3:08 pm

Restoration of the Warner could be done in stages. The restoration of just the theatre wouldn’t cost $50 Million. If you want to rebuild the stage then the price goes up. If you want to restore the office buidling the price goes up. If you want to build a parking structure the price goes up. If parking is needed let the City of Milwaukee fund the parking structure. Maybe the office building could be turned into Condos which is a trend happening across the US.How many Art Deco structures are left in the state of Wisconsin? The restoration of the Orpheum in Downtown LA was done for $4 Million. I heard the Warner is in pretty good shape. If the Loew’s Jersey can be restored on a shoestring budget and hours of work from volunteers maybe a local volunteer effort could help the Warner. I think when people say its going to cost an inflated some of money I think this scares many people who might be interested in restoring the theatre.Playhouse Square in Cleveland was restored over a period of 30 years. The Fox Oakland a 3500 seat house is being restored slowly over a period years as the funds become available and the demand for a second theatre slowly develop in a city of 400,000 people. The City knows they must save and restore this theatre as part of the master plan for Downtown.I can tell a lot about a city who restores there landmarks and theatres and those who don’t. One theatre downtown does not constitute a theatre district.brucec

JimRankin
JimRankin on February 9, 2004 at 10:53 am

Mr. Williamson, if you are still going to “go on a personal crusade” regarding the WARNER/GRAND, I suggest that you contact me for more information. I can be reached at It is interesting to note that the Marcus people were approached twice about having it declared first, a local, and then a state landmark, but both times they blocked that in order to keep their options open to make maximum financial use of the property. The land owner has 20 years remaining on the lease with Marcus, so they cannot demolish without his permission, which he pledges not to give. The land owner says that he is keeping an eye on the property from a distance (he winters in Florida) and making sure that Marcus keeps the building somewhat heated to forestall decay, but what happens in 20 years if it is not purchased, remains to be seen. It now seems unlikely that the Symphony will purchase it since the man there in favor of that has left. The theatre and land are appraised at less than a million, but there don’t appear to be any takers in the forseeable future. It is ironic that the very pipe organ that was removed from it in 1973 before the theatre was devided into the the GRAND CINEMAS I&II would it if were there today, increase its value and perhaps induce a hesistant buyer to buy the theatre if for nothing more than a concert hall as the Symphony intended. That organ is now much enlarged and doing well in the ORIENTAL, but that theatre’s future is also in doubt The GRAND also includes some 12 floors of offices which are largely vacant, so there is potential for someone to rehab them to interest new businesses downtown, though it would be imperative for him to buy the corner lot and demolish to create an attached parking structure there, thus owning the entire quarter block. Jim Rankin, member: Theatre Historical Society of America (www.HistoricTheatres.org