Southtown Cinema 4
2906 S. 108th Street,
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Previously operated by: Marcus Theatres
Architects: Maurice D. Sornik
News About This Theater
- May 21, 2010 — Happy 30th, "Empire"
The Southtown Cinema was one of the larger theatres on the south side of the Milwaukee area. Their largest theatre (of three) was capable of showing 70mm prints and was THE Milwaukee theatre to see the latest widescreen blockbuster. Famous films that played the Southtown’s large screen included 2001, The Towering Inferno, Earthquake (in full Sensurround!), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Pink Floyd: The Wall, with 2001, Close Encounters and The Wall all showing in 70mm.
In the 1980s, the large theatre was twinned, making the theatre a four screen venue.
The theatre was razed in 2001 for a strip mall shopping center, notable as the home to the Milwaukee area’s first Krispy Kreme store.
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Recent comments (view all 14 comments)
The CINEMA WESTLANE was originally a single screen designed originally by Sornick, of Massapequa Park, NY, as a template cinema for General Drive-In Corp. of Boston. At least 3 others of its design were built in Texas and Missouri, all razed. Yes, the CINEMA WESTLANE was across the street from the SOUTHTOWN, and later did become the SOUTHTOWN 5&6 under the Marcus ownership. The SOUTHTOWN did retain as its only auditorium decor, the 10-foot-tall silhouette fabric-covered panels of the letter ’S' back-lit by neon tubing right up to demolition. The plate glass lobby wall revealed the stone planters of dusty artificial plastic plants, some of which remained up to closing. Posters in frames were the only other real decor of this formerly lavish suburban (of Milwaukee) showhouse. With the extension of the strip mall now covering the site, there is nothing remaining of this cinema. Likewise, the ‘extension’ of it across the street is gone, with only a restaurant now occupying part of the site. The city of West Allis no longer has any theatrs.
This theatre started life as a single screen, Marcus added 2 of their standard (for the time) shoeboxes to the big single. 70mm was installed for Close Encounters, the equipment was swapped with the projection equipment from the Capital Court Theatre (which Marcus twinned and couldn’t run 70 anymore) The big house ran several 70mm’s but I don’t recall ever seeing Pink Floyd there in 70mm. I ran Encounters and a rerun of The Sound of Music in 70mm. Later they ran a wall down the middle of the big house, and that was that. The old Westlane across the street became #’s 5& 6, it was a former GCC house that wasn’t worth a burp as a single and was even worse as a twin. GCC twinned the Brookfield Square the same way, the screens were way up the front wall, made for sore necks.
(1) The Description/History at the top reads in part: “Architect: Maurivce D. Sornick”. On checking the City of West Allis (which is where the cinema legally was) records, I find listed as Architect: “Lefebvre, Wiggans and Associates, in 1966.” [Sornick was the defacto architect of the Cinema Westlane directly across 108th St. It was renamed the Southtown 5&6 many years later.]
(2) The Description goes on to state:
“The theatre was razed in 2001 for a strip mall shopping center, notable as the home to the Milwaukee area’s first Krispy Kreme store."
Actually, the space the cinema occupied at the north end of the 1960 strip shopping mall was reused by expanding the mall with three new stores including a large automobile service garage along the same curb line the cinema had. The Krispy Kreme building was built about 100 feet west of this curb line upon part of the parking lot. They could have built the Krispy Kreme as it is without being anywhere near the cinema and the access drive (from Dakota St, on the north property line) in front of the cinema at the curb would have remained, but the view of the cinema from busy 108th St (State Hwy 100) would have been largely blocked, and a large part of the cinema’s parking area taken up by the Krispy Kreme and its parking and front terrace which extends to the west to the sidewalk on the east side of 108th St. The Krispy Kreme was therefore not the reason for the demise of the Southtown; only its owner, Marcus, can be blamed for that.
This theatre was designed after one in Bloomington,Mn. also called Southtown. It was actually built by Mann in 1964 but bought by General Cinema in 1970. It was a single with 1260 seats then in 1980 in was twined leaving 540 seats in each. Later removed 2 seats in each for handicapp. It had a waterfountain in it when it opened but had to be removed after years has not being maintained. The theatre was closed Sept. 17, 1995.
The Bloomington Southtown is listed on cinema treasures but not under General Cinema. It is only list under Mann Southtown.
As the author of the original description, I never meant to imply the Southtown was torn down to construct the Krispy Kreme, but rather it’s the most identifiable feature of the street location the theatre once occupied.
Thus most Milwaukee-area residents today would know it only as “where the Krispy Kreme is on Highway 100.” (Or “Highway Hundred” for the REAL Milwaukee vernacular. :–))
This opened on November 2nd, 1966.
Ad with a picture of the theatre and Ben Marcus can be seen at
Three screens on July 10th, 1973
When did “Pink Floyd: The Wall” play here in 70mm? (It’s mentioned sans playdates in overview.)
Pink Floyd: The Wall played here in 70mm during its original theatrical release, so I’m guessing late September, 1982.
I don’t see any evidence “Pink Floyd: The Wall” was promoted as a 70mm presentation during its September/October 1982 first-run engagement. What evidence do you possess, kucharsk, to suggest the advertising was faulty? Or is this nothing more than a case of misremembering?
Anyway, the reason I wish to sort this out is so the movie in question can be accurately included/excluded from my 70mm Presentations in Milwaukee and Pink Floyd: The 70mm Engagements articles.
Corrections are welcome, of course, but please be prepared to provide some reasonable evidence.