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.
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
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:
Has faith in
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)