Esquire Theatre

310 W. Wisconsin Avenue,
Milwaukee, WI 53202

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Telenews Theaters

Architects: Richard Philipp

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: Telenews Theatre

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Promotional matchbook, TELENEWS Theatre; Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Telenews opened in 1947, and stood on Wisconsin Avenue. The theatre was renamed the Esquire Theatre after the era of newsreel theatres came to an end. It closed on September 7, 1981 with Robert Hays in “Airplane”. It was later demolished to make way for the Reuss Federal Building.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

kencmcintyre on June 15, 2007 at 11:44 am

Thanks for the info.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on August 10, 2007 at 5:18 pm

Here is a partial photo of the Esquire. View link

The movie appears to be LITTLE DARLINGS, which would place the photo sometime around 1980. Many of these “transit fan” sites have good pictures of theatres too! These sites have vintage buses and streetcars photographed by then-well-known landmarks.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 12, 2010 at 5:37 am

I think there might be an error in the architect field. Boxoffice of February 2, 1946, attributes the design of the Telenews Theatre, then about to begin construction, to Milwaukee architect Richard Philipp (though the item misspells his name as Richard Philip.) Richard Philipp (1874-1959) was a well-known Milwaukee architect who, from 1906 until about 1938, practiced in partnership with the even better-known architect Peter Brust.

I’ve been unable to find any other source confirming the attribution in Boxoffice, but a thorough Internet search fails to turn up an architect named Ralph Phillips at all. There might have been a transcription error of some sort in Jim Rankin’s notes, turning Richard Philipp into Ralph Phillips.

rivest266 on October 10, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Mark, That 1947 ad that you mentioned can be seen on this page at
View link

rivest266 on October 16, 2010 at 6:49 pm

October 22nd, 1965 opening as Esquire ad is at View link
larger ad from October 21
View link

DavidZornig on February 13, 2016 at 10:55 pm

Photos of the Esquire, Strand & Wisconsin Theatres in below 2/11/16 link.

DaveT on February 21, 2016 at 11:31 pm

I worked for Mr. Luedtke in the early seventies at the Esquire. A truly old-school man with customer service sensibilities that are missing today. He would stand by the entrance (I was an usher) and tell the patrons as they entered that there was ‘good seating on the left or the right" We had two entrances to the theatre. He enjoyed customer interaction and when he stood in the lobby he would rock on his feet, from the balls of his feet to the heels. He was also full of what might seem dated witticisms like “There’s no sense hitting your head against the wall because it feels so good to stop” when a task seemed particularly onerous. Mr. Luedtke expected that every available seat in the house would be filled with patrons when a movie like “The Graduate” was shown, and thus he would make sure that the ushers went into the theatre and asked people to move over to create added space. He kept tabs on ticket sales from the cashier. Cleanliness was important to Mr. Luedtke and so the usher spent a portion of his time cleaning the theatre between shows, vacuuming the lobby and picking up debris in the waiting area in the basement. The usher was expected to perform light maintenance as part of his job duties, which included but was not limited to standing on a twelve foot ladder in the lobby to change lights in the ceiling, or shoveling the sidewalk in front of the theatre(not much of a job with the marquee awning). Perhaps the best job was changing the marquee sign when movies changed. As noted in previous comments, the marquee was accessed from a small door on the second floor. Getting out on the marquee was a treat in that it offered a unique perspective on Wisconsin Ave. There was more than one occasion during the year and a half I worked there when Marquette University’s basketball team would win a big game, the dorms would empty, and a flood of students would come down the avenue, chanting and blocking traffic while they inexorably moved to the lakefront. I will add comments as I think of them. As with the best times in life, the camaraderie of the employees and the firm but friendly guidance of Mr. Luedtke are a great memory. All for $1.75 an hour. Yeah, I still have a pay stub.

Trolleyguy on September 29, 2020 at 10:17 am

In-depth article about the Telenews here.

LouRugani on December 4, 2020 at 6:44 pm

Bobby Tanzilo, Senior Editor/Writer, OnMilwaukee, Sep. 29, 2020) - When we think of vintage movie theaters, I think we all tend to think of them as having had a long life, but some were built later in the cinema boom and fell victim to urban landscape changes relatively quickly. One Milwaukee example was the Telenews Theater, a streamline moderne (late art deco) venue designed by architect Richard Philipp (who designed The American Club in Kohler, among other works) that was built at 310 W. Wisconsin Ave. in 1946-7. Of 80 cinemas in the city in 1950, just three were built between 1945 and 1950, and the Telenews was one of them. (The others were the Fox Bay and the Airway on Howell, now gone.) The theater – developed by the Ticonic Investment Co. and part of a chain owned by Hearst news that included theaters in other cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Oakland, San Francisco and Seattle – opened in 1947. The biggest of them all, it seems, was in Chicago. It wasn’t terribly big, with just 470 seats. But it was air conditioned and only cost 33 cents (plus tax) to get in to see the one-hour mix of news stories and sporting events footage. On the lower level was the WFOX radio Theater Radio Lounge, where patrons could watch broadcasts taking place in person. The theaters typically built in the 1940s and focusing on newsreels were a bit late to the game. As television took over, the theaters soon converted to showing feature films. According to, in 1947, Americans had 16,000 television sets. Two years later, they had 4 million. In 1950, 11 million. According to Larry Widen and Judi Anderson’s book, “Silver Screens,” the Telenews began showing features just a year after opening. Milwaukee’s Telenews became the Esquire when Marcus Theatres purchased it in 1965 and heavily remodeled it. The change came a few years after employees bought the Milwaukee Sentinel newspapers from Hearst, which had controlled the morning paper since 1924. According to Mark Zimmermann, who worked at the Esquire from 1971 to 1973, “The studio where the broadcast was originated was in the back with a glass window and door. By 1971 it was a storage room and it still had soundproofing materials on the walls. The outdoor cafe look was still there, but was looking ragged. There was a working fountain that was used for donations for charities, but by 1973 the fountain was broken and lay empty after that.” Zimmermann also recalled on Cinema Treasures that the Esquire was where cult classics like John Waters' “Pink Flamingos” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” made their Milwaukee debuts. “When Marcus Theatres bought it, the Esquire started showing prestige foreign films like Ingmar Bergman and Bridget Bardot. Then they had the exclusive Milwaukee showing of ‘The Graduate’ for 68 weeks. Other movies that they had for runs of four months or more were ’MAS*H,‘ 'Romeo & Juliet,’ ‘Love Story,’ ‘Harold & Maude’ and ‘Slaughterhouse 5.’ By the 1970’s things started going downhill. We stopped getting exclusive premieres and started sharing playdates with Southgate and Mayfair Mall theaters. Then we started running double-bills along with second-run neighborhood houses, and then started showing Swedish X-rated movies. The one thing we did start at the Esquire that was ahead of its time was Midnight Flicks. We first aired the infamous John Waters film ‘Pink Flamingos.’ The Milwaukee police shut the theater down after the second Saturday showing. After three weeks of debate in the Common Council they allowed us to show it again. Next we played ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ for about six Saturdays before it moved to its permanent home, the Oriental.” Even though the theater was built without a balcony, Zimmermann remembered a small one with 52 seats that must have been added at a later date, perhaps when it was remodeled by Marcus. The Milwaukee theater, like most of the entire square block, fell in 1981 when it was replaced by the Henry Reuss Federal Building, which has been rebranded as the 310W. The block had also been home to the Alhambra, Vaudette (Magnet), Whitehouse, Miller (Towne) and New Star (Saxe/Orpheum/Gayety/Empress) theaters. These photos (qv) showing the construction progress of the Telenews Theater were taken by James B. Murdoch. They are from the archive of the Dahlman Construction Company, founded in Milwaukee in 1908 and still active.

reschultzed on April 1, 2023 at 7:12 pm

The final showing at the Esquire was “Airplane!” on September 7, 1981 (Labor Day). The following day, all the fixtures were sold off in a rummage sale, and by the end of the month the building was sold to the developer of the Reuss Federal Building. (Milwaukee Sentinel archives)

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