West Bend Theatre

125 N. Main Street,
West Bend, WI 53095

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LouRugani on May 2, 2019 at 4:03 pm

The plan to restore the WEST BEND Theatre has been in the works since 2017, when nonprofit group Historic West Bend Theatre, Inc. purchased the building for $250,000 and went public with a capital campaign for the project. The project will include a new heating and ventilating system, new roof, revamped electrical and plumbing systems, new sound and video equipment, IT systems, new restrooms, an enlarged stage, new seating on the main floor and balcony and the addition of an art deco-style bar. The 600-seat theater opened in downtown West Bend in 1929 and showed films until it closed in 2006. The renovated building will include 120 seats on the main floor and 200 in the balcony. Previous proposals to gut all but the building’s facade were met with opposition from the West Bend community. The West Bend Theatre vertical sign has been removed for restoration. “This is a very rare event that takes place, where an entire city and town can come together and recreate history,” said Nic Novaczyk, president of HWBT, at the groundbreaking ceremony. “This has been an identifying mark for West Bend for decades and decades and decades. It’s just been such a joy and privilege to watch it in its early stages start to come back to life. And I think over the next six, eight, nine months of construction, we’re really going to see something special.” HWBT has raised about $2.1 million from private sources, including West Bend Mutual Insurance, National Exchange Bank & Trust, area foundations and individual donors. The organization has also submitted applications for about $1.1 million in tax credits and other grants. The group will continue fundraising throughout the year. HWBT organizers envision the restored theater serving as an all-purpose community facility, hosting showings of classic movies, musical performances, comedy acts, corporate events and weddings. “It’s multi-purpose; we want it to do all kinds of things,” said John Torinus, a HWBT board member and chairman of Serigraph Inc. “We want the public to feel they own this theater. We want it full five or six days a week.” HWBT initially expected the restoration work to take a year to complete, but the group said it could move more quickly than for completion by the end of 2019. MSI General is the general contractor for the project. Sub-contractors include Steiner Electric, Albiero Plumbing and Affordable Environmental Technologies. HWBT’s board also plans to hire an executive director in June. Until now, HWBT has been a volunteer effort, led by the group’s 18-person board.

vetsphynx on November 15, 2017 at 4:41 pm

I know this is a far stretch here, but I am doing a project on historic downtown West Bend buildings,and the theater sticks out as one of the most iconic for West Bend. If anyone has stories about the history of the theater, I would love to hear them. My email is . Thank you in advance!

OldTimer_Projectionist on September 16, 2017 at 7:31 am

I was the projectionist old theater from 1967 till I was drafted to the US Army in 1969. At that time it was just one screen with old projection booth at the high upper level above and behind the upper balcony. One reel lasted about 15 to 18 minutes, then I would chance over to another projector for the next reel. Carbon Arc provide the light. Most movies averaged about 5 to 6 reels. The movie Ten Commandments and Grand Prix, to name a few, had 10 reels with intermissions. Some of the other movies that I ran were, Bonnie and Clyde, A Man For All Seasons, Cool Hand Luke, Valley Of the Dolls. Elvis Presley movies, Clam Bake, Viva Las Vegas and Riverboat Show. All of which were first run movies at that time. I enjoyed the job until Uncle Sam required my services in the Viet Nam Theater in 1970 to 1971. I often think of those times at the old theater.

LouRugani on July 19, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Historic West Bend Theatre, Inc. purchased the 88-year-old WEST BEND Theatre this week for $250,000 from Ascendant Holdings LLC. HWBT has launched a campaign with the goal of raising $1.5 million to $3 million to renovate the theater next year.

John Torinus, the group’s spokesperson and chairman of Serigraph Inc. said plans to gut all but the building’s facade were met with opposition from the West Bend community. “The town sort of rose up and said, ‘No, you can’t take down the theater — that’s where I had my first date. That’s where I had my first kiss. It really was palpable.”

Ascendant Holdings, LLC bought the building in 2012 for $100,000, according to state records. Its founder Matt Prescott, a West Bend native, stabilized the property and has readied it for reuse, Torinus said.

Torinus said HWBT envisions the restored theatre hosting showings of classic movies, matinee showings for children, musical performances, comedy acts, corporate events and weddings. “It will be a community, all-purpose facility,” he said. HWBT has brought on Scott Georgeson, an architect whose portfolio includes restoration work on the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Skylight Opera Theater and Schauer Arts & Activity Center in Hartford.

Torinus said HWBT is raising money through the rest of 2017 with construction anticipated to begin in early 2018 and a goal to have it completed in 2018, he said. “So far we’ve had nothing but good reception from the community and potential donors,” he said.

LouRugani on January 25, 2017 at 9:59 pm

Two competing plans have surfaced with interest in the historic vacant WEST BEND Theatre. The preservationists are with the nonprofit Historic West Bend Theatre, trying to convince city officials and others about its plans to renovate the theatre as a venue for concerts, dance recitals and weddings seating around 400 people, said Scott Georgeson, HWBT’s project architect who operates Orchestra Design Studio in Milwaukee. The renovated WEST BEND Theatre would preserve the building’s stage, he said, with movable seating that would allow for both live performances as well as weddings and other banquet-style events. That flexibility would keep the venue as active as possible and create more opportunities to earn revenue for the building’s operator, he said.

Historic West Bend Theatre is led by Lisa Rowe, an associate lecturer of communications-theater arts at University of Wisconsin-Washington County in West Bend. HWBT was organized in Spring of 2016 and needs to raise an estimated $1 million to $2 million for its proposal, Georgeson said.


Meanwhile, others want to demolish the WEST BEND Theatre while preserving the façade (including the marquee) as an entry into a new park and outdoor amphitheater on the former auditorium footprint, and that group claims it’s nearly raised the $700,000 it says is needed for that project. Mike Husar is leading the effort; he’s an owner of Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds next door to the WEST BEND Theatre, which opened in 1929, ended films about 10 years ago, then was sold to Ascendant Holdings LLC, a real estate development and investment group co-owned by West Bend native Matthew Prescott.

Husar claims the park/amphitheater project would bring more life to downtown and cost less than reusing the theatre. Milwaukee-based Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc. is involved in the Husar group which Husar said has been working on the park/amphitheater plan for about a year.

The WEST BEND Theatre’s owner is avoiding the public controversy. “I don’t think we prefer a certain proposal,” said a representative of building owner Ascendant Holdings. “The important thing to us is that its next owner has a good long-term plan that they can actually follow through on and benefit the entire downtown area.”

Trolleyguy on April 8, 2016 at 2:54 pm

No longer showing movies. Live entertainment venue only.

petensue on August 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Walked by the old Mermac Theater today with parents. The entrance now leads to several different rooms, but they haven’t done much with the place according to the guy that was sitting on the stoop outside. There’s a small alley way with a door on the south side of the building which my dad said led to the projection room. The price for the West Bend theatre is listed on the marquee outside and above the main doors!

petensue on August 2, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I talked to my mom and she said the Mermac used to be in the Washington Hotel building that is still on 6th street,but they must have renumbered the addresses. They used to call it the cowboy theater because they went there to see all the old cowboy movies! They redid the store front. The box office used to be right in front. My dad worked there as well as the West Bend Theater! It is now for sale for $198,000! Maybe lower!

Jason Fox
Jason Fox on June 4, 2011 at 10:43 pm

According to the December 21, 1929 issue of Exhibitors Herald-World, the West Bend Theatre was designed by A.S. Graven, Inc.

BobSchermacher on February 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm

After many years away, working in Corporate Video Production, I have returned to my birth state of WI (Plymouth) and am not far from the old West Bend Theater. I was projectionist there from 1978-81.

Can anyone post if they know the most recent state of affairs with the building. Was the Live Brewhaus venue successful? The link to Nova Cinemas is not working. Thank you.

LuvvsTheatre132 on July 16, 2010 at 10:13 am

Hello :)
I hace many things to say. First, I love live theatre, and second I am very interested in early cinema. I would love to salvage this theatre, and reconstruct it as a live-action theatre. Please join my cause “Save the West Bend Cinema” on facebook if you have it. Also, I live in West Bend and just today went to the address 224 N. 6th St. It doesn’t exitst! It goes straight from 220 to 228 :( I am in love with this page,a nd thank you all for all of the information and stories you all posted!

capturinglife on March 12, 2010 at 7:18 pm

I was born and raised in West Bend and grew up watching movies every single weekend at the West Bend Cinema. I moved away years ago, but driving through downtown WB today, I saw the for sale sign. If I had the proper finances, I would jump at the chance to own it. I truly hope someone tries to make it a viable theater again. I’d make the weekly drive to help do my part. :)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 8, 2010 at 6:03 am

Does anybody know what became of the Mermac Theatre at West Bend? Long operated by August Berkholtz, owner of the West Bend Theatre, it was a ca.1913 house, remodeled in 1938, and fitted with CinemaScope in 1954. After that it vanishes. here’s an article about the remodeling in Boxoffice of October 15, 1938.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 7, 2010 at 8:18 am

The West Bend Theatre opened November 16, 1929, to be exact (or so said Movie Age of December 7 that year.) Appropriately enough for a theater that ended up selling beer, the president of Community Theatres, Inc., the original owners, was named William Pabst.

wimovies on January 6, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Now on loopnet for $250,000

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on August 22, 2008 at 10:30 pm

Theater for sale $350,000

kencmcintyre on August 29, 2007 at 6:39 pm

The West Bend was operated by Wisconsin Amusements Corp. in the early sixties.

southernshells on August 10, 2007 at 10:52 am

Actually this theater was reopened in July 2007 and is currently known as the West Bend Cinema Brewhaus. It is currently showing foreign language films, independent films, first and second run movies. The movie times can be found at www.novacinemas.com Next week Casablanca will also be showing. All tickets are only $3.50 and beer and wine are served, you must be 18 to enter. Thanks

andynkeena on February 17, 2007 at 5:20 am

Whatever became of that nice man who took tickets back in the 80s. He was tall (to me then) and had dark hair, actually I think he was pretty bald.

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on February 17, 2007 at 1:50 am

For sale for $595,000. Deed restriction will not permit use as a movie theatre. http://listing.loopnet.com/14998017

bloosoda on November 25, 2006 at 10:13 am

Sadly, the West Bend closed on 11/22/06 after being in operation for 77 years.

BobSchermacher on September 9, 2005 at 12:13 pm


I was the projectionist at this theater from 1978 to 1981. At that time, there was a Cinema I downstairs, with a loud air-turbine platter system…and a Cinema II upstairs, which was an extension of the balcony with a Cinemascope screen. Upstairs had an electric motor platter system.

One of the idiosyncracies of the downstairs screen was that it was locked into being a 4 by 3 aspect ratio because of the old “live stage” screen, so any Scope movie was severely cropped by a custom cut aperature in the projector. I haven’t been there in a long time, but I can’t imagine the Cinema I space being divided up into 2 theaters, must feel cramped.

The managers of the theater then were Roland and Mary Meade. They were very kind to me and a dedicated couple serving many years there.

My name is Bob Schermacher and I can be reached at I have been working from 1988 to the present in Video Production in the state of Arkansas. I always dreamt of someday operating a family-themed theater in the same old baroque style like this one was. Thanks for this posting and web site!

andynkeena on December 8, 2004 at 11:11 am

Where’s the listings for movies at the West Bend Theatre?

andynkeena on December 8, 2004 at 11:10 am

I don’t get it. Where’s the listings for movies at the West Bend Theatre?