Bradley Symphony Center

212 W. Wisconsin Avenue,
Milwaukee, WI 53203

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Showing 126 - 131 of 131 comments

artdecodave on February 3, 2004 at 4:52 pm

I was in the Grand Cinema just before they closed it, to take pictures. It is a spectacular theater as you described. As a collector and admirer of Art Deco, I was in awe. The theater is in excellent condition and I couldn’t believe that it closed. With alot of people moving downtown in recent years, especially the lofts in the 3rd ward, and the talk about trying to revive the Grand Avenue mall, reopening the Grand Cinema would be great! People who live downtown wouldn’t have to drive way out to Waukesha to see a movie. Look at the Oriental theater. It has done well for many years. Opening the space below the lobby as a restaurant would be great too. Recently I read that the Avalon theater is closed and the owner wants to turn it into office space. The Avalon is another spectacular historic theater. If the Symphony doesn’t buy the Grand Cinema, I think I will go on a personal crusade to find someone that will! Also the Grand should be on the National Register for historic buildings. Then Marcus couldn’t tear it down.
David L. Williamson

AndrewWillenson on January 13, 2004 at 3:49 pm

Downtown Milwaukee needs a lot of movie screens. It does not have any right now. I therefore respectfully request that the Marcus Corporation reopen the Grand Cinema. Appearently the formerly twinned auditoriums have been recombined into one theater again. Great! Now reopen the theater, and see what the demand is for movies downtown.

Long term, a 2400 seat auditorium may not be viable for showing movies. But for right now, seeing a movie there would be fun.

One more thing. The auditorium would need the very best sound system. For first-run movies, people want that. The Grand would be a great place to see a first run movie IF it had the best sound system available.


Andrew N. Willenson

JimRankin on April 7, 2003 at 1:55 pm

It is a little known fact that the area under the GRAND’S lobby is reachable only from the office building’s lobby, and that basement area is fitted out as a 100-some seat viewing room used by local film distributors as a preview venue for them and selected guests, thus an area exists for a new owner to use as he wishes, and not necessarily as the restaurant space it was intended for on the 1931 original blueprints by Rapp & Rapp.

JimRankin on December 27, 2002 at 7:55 am

The ‘Grand’ opened as the Warner in 1931, but in the early 1970s before it was divided in two, it was known as the Centre, and it was then that there were reports by the audience of noises of someone moving about in the ceiling above the under-balcony seats (thus inside the huge balcony) and that a ghostly voice was heard calling out strange things to the audience below. These complaints led the manager of the theatre to determine that someone was walking about the theatre’s private areas unseen, and obviously uninvited. A night janitor later confirmed strange noises of movement within the attics high above. The police were called along with local TV station cameras and revealed the makeshift bed and toiletries of someone sleeping in the lobby’s attic space. It was the beginning of the modern homeless phenomenon and a ticket to a movie, if it were ever paid, was cheaper than even a flop house, and a lot safer, after all. The toiletries suggested to the police that the man had little opportunity to bathe since the theatre’s bathrooms were not really equipped for bathing. It is hard to believe that there were no locks on the access doors to such spaces, but the Warner was built in a more innocent day and age. Though the man was never found, the areas were now locked and no further reports of the “Phantom” were made.

JimRankin on December 25, 2002 at 10:51 am

Had a memorable experience here in the 70s when the projectionist invited me into the lower cinema’s projection room carved out of the last rows of seats on the main floor. While watching him start the film on the platters, an alarm went off in the room signaling trouble with the show in the upper cinema in the old balcony. So, up six flights of stairs and the balcony and then three flights up to the old projection room we raced, all out of breath. We came in to find the film piled in heaps on the floor, but the computer had stopped the platters before too much damage was done. The audience was all black for a black exploitation film and they were hollering something fierce and pounding on the projection room’s locked door. The projectionist said that he head better get the film fixed quick or the audience would start demolishing the theater (they had actually ripped seat frames from the floor bolts the last time, he said). He managed to splice the film and rethread it and pushed the ‘start’ button and the computer then dimmed the house lights, started the platters spinning and then the xenon light of the projector, and then opened the curtains. It ran for about ten seconds when an alarm sounded, the film stopped, the house lights came on slowly, and the curtains closed. The crowd shouted louder than before. He saw something wrong and adjusted the film and again pushed the start button, and the platters started spinning, the house lights dimmed, and the curtains started opening again. This time it ran well for about ten minutes when an alarm sounded from the lower booth and we raced downstairs while the upper audience glowered at us. It was the same thing there, but there were only about a dozen people in there for this matinee, so we didn’t panic as much. Then the alarm sounded for the upper theater again, and he cursed and started to SLOWLY go upstairs again. I decided that I didn’t want to see the spectacle again, and wished him good luck and left. He stayed on there for a while, so I guess he got it all fixed, without getting himself ‘fixed’.

matt on September 24, 2002 at 9:08 pm

Hi, great site. I am a graduate student and my thesis is the renovation of the Grand/Warner Theater in Milwaukee. I already have a lot of information that I could give you about it. My research will be through the following year. (and if you have any suggestions….)