A guide to Milwaukee's historic theaters

With the recent news that the Brady Street Pharmacy will draw influence from its building's past use as a movie theater to create a Milwaukee filmmakers' mecca, we are reminded that many buildings still standing in our city once served as entertainment centers. Before TV and video games, folks went into these buildings -- many of them so unassuming that we'd never guess they were theaters -- and were transported to exotic locales and marveled at the legends of Hollywood.

We've assembled a list of some of the surviving theaters, so that you can take a self-guided tour of Milwaukee's theater history. Please feel free to add others or update the info by using the comments feature at the bottom of the story.

The Astor Theater (1696 N. Astor St.), served as a cinema from 1914-'52, accommodating 752 moviegoers. These days, of course, it is the Brady Street Pharmacy and owner Jim Searles has announced that he plans to restore the building to its theater appearance and donate the second floor for a cinema and performing arts center.

The theater known as the Royal (830 S. 6th St.) was also called the World during some of its years as a movie house, 1928-'85. After some years screening Spanish-language films, the theater now sits empty.

The Paradise (6229 W. Greenfield Ave.), built in 1926, served as a popular revival cinema for a number of years before shutting its doors in the mid-1990s. The building now houses a church.

The State (2616 W. State St.) served as a theater from 1915-'55 and later became The Palms nightclub and an exotic dancing venue, Hoops. It is now empty.

The Riviera (1005 W. Lincoln Ave.) was built in 1921 and showed films until 1955, when it was converted into retail space. The nearby Lincoln Theater (1104 W. Lincoln Ave.) is even older, having been built in 1910, but ceased screenings the same year as its neighbor. This theater is now vacant.

The Mozart (1316 S. 16th St.) accommodated 433 moviegoers during its run as a cinema from 1910-'52. The nearby Alamo (1037 S. 16th St.), had a similar life span, serving as a theater from 1911-'54, and was also known as the Idle Hour. Both are now retail space.

Not far away is the Greenfield (2212 W. Greenfield Ave.), which also showed films under the names Abby and Pastime from 1913-'57. This 530-seat space is now a meeting hall.

Bay View had a number of theaters that are still standing. The Mirth (2651 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) was open from 1913-'52. Most recently the building housed a nightclub and rehearsal space for local bands, but it has been empty for a decade.

The Comique (2246 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.), is now home to Bay View Liquor, but had a brief run as an early Milwaukee theater from 1905-'09, seating 200 patrons. The now-vacant Airdome (2161 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) was also called the Rex, Badger and Union Electric during its time as a theatre from, 1906-'19.

On the "other side of the tracks" in Bay View was the Lake (2893 S. Delaware Ave.), also known as the Bay. This 970-seat venue operated from 1926-'56 and is now the home to Mark Gubin's photography studio.

The Bell (1402 W. North Ave.) was also called the Lyceum, Iris and Roosevelt during its tenure as a cinema, from 1911-'65. This north-side building now serves as retail space.

Downtown was once littered with movie theaters, as any old photo will illustrate, but only a few buildings remain nowadays. One is the 1931 Warner (212 W. Wisconsin Ave.), one of the grandest theaters in the city's history, justifying its alternate name, The Grand, which ceased screening films about a decade ago.

The Lyric (311 W. Wisconsin Ave.) was a small, 250-seat theater from 1908-'13. Nearby, the larger Majestic (219 W. Wisconsin Ave.), seated 1,902 from 1908-'32.

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OMCreader | Jan. 30, 2006 at 1:13 a.m. (report)

NICOLE said: I am desperately looking for pictures or any information obtainable by internet about the old popular nighclub in milwaukee during the 80's called "the palms". I am out of state and used to live thier and wonder if you can help me out by getting this info?? thanks

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