Kenosha Theatre Restoration Project

The Kenosha Theatre was built in 1927 by United Studios of Chicago for Universal Studios. The project was commissioned by Carl Laemmle a Wisconsin native and founder of Universal Studios. At that time, all the major movie studios owned every aspect of making and distributing movies up and down the line, including owning the theaters where movies were seen by the public such as the Kenosha. theater construction

It was decided that the Kenosha Theatre would eclipse any theater built in the past or currently being built in the Milwaukee theater circuit. Many months of design effort and sketches were put into the project before it was decided that the theater be built in the motif of a Spanish castle. Once construction started though, the theater was completed in record time.

The theater served the community for 36 years before being closed in 1963. Since that time it was used for a time as a warehouse and also as a flea market but for the majority of time it has remained vacant. Years of neglect and a leaking roof have caused much damage to the interior of the building but the underlying structure has remained solid.

In 1983, the theater was purchased by Kenosha Theatre Development with the idea of restoring the building. The group then went about restoring the attached apartment building and retail storefronts as the first step towards that goal. While this portion has been completed for some time, the cash flow generated by leasing these apartments has only been sufficient to pay the debt service on the building and to make improvements necessary to stabilize the building. The theater portion of the building was leased to the non-profit organization, The Citizen's Group for the Kenosha Theatre which is in charge of the Kenosha Theatre Restoration Project. This group currently has a 25 year lease on the theater with an option to purchase the entire building once the funding to restore the theater is obtained.

A market study* done in 1989 states that the Kenosha Theatre should be restored as a performing arts center once the site of the old Chrysler plant on Kenosha’s lakefront was re-developed. The Harbor Park development is well underway and so the time for restoring the theater as an entertainment complex is NOW.

1927 newspaper stories about the theatre opening and construction:

Woman has Key position

Has faith in Kenosha

Artist Sense

Marvel in Spanish Architecture

Starlit Sky called a masterpiece

* The above link is for an executive summary of the market study. For a copy of the complete market study (8.9MB in size) click here.