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Avalon Atmospheric Theater (photo credit Avalon Atmospheric Theater)

Avalon Atmospheric Theater

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

First Opened: 4th May 1929 (95 years ago)

Reopened: 15th December 2014

Atmospheric Style: Mediterranean Courtyard

Architect: Russell B. Williamson

Former Names: Bay View Theater, Avalon Theater, Garden Theater

Website: avalonmke.com Link opens in new window

Address: 2473 S. Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207 Link opens in new window


The 1,637-seat Avalon Theater opened as a neighborhood movie theatre in May 1929 and was named after the Al Jolson song Avalon (1920) Link opens in new window that popularized the island of paradise in Arthurian legend.

Construction happened in fits-and-starts, having first commenced in December 1925 following over a year of plans and speculation. When ground was broken the theatre’s name was going to be the Bay View Theater but this changed to the Avalon Theater by late 1928.

Opening night featured the talkie The Doctor’s Secret (1929) Link opens in new window starring Ruth Chatterton and H.B. Warner, plus both comedy and novelty shorts.

Six months after opening, the theatre bucked the national trend and started featuring high-class vaudeville acts, although this trend did not last long.

The Avalon operated as a first-run movie theatre for over 70 years. Sometime around 1974 the theatre’s name changed to the Garden Theatre, however according to local reports within a year the name changed back to the Avalon.

During the 1980s and 1990s the theatre offered second-run films at discounted prices, interspersed with organ concerts facilitated by the Dairyland Theater Organ Society Link opens in new window.

A second auditorium was added to the theatre in the late 1990s (located on disused stage), however five years later the theatre stopped exhibiting films entirely.

In 2005, the theatre was acquired by Lee Barczak, owner of the Neighborhood Theater Group Link opens in new window, for $1.1 million. Restoration was delayed due to economic conditions at the time however the theatre ultimately underwent a significant renovation and reopened in December 2014 with a triple-bill of The Hobbit Trilogy (2012-2014) Link opens in new window.

Ten years after its reopening the Avalon is now a vibrant location in the Bay View area of Milwaukee that offers patrons two viewing options: the large star-lit Atmospheric Theater and the traditional Back Stage Theater. The Neighborhood Theatre Group Link opens in new window also offers two other locations: The Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse Link opens in new window and the Times Cinema Link opens in new window.

Further Reading


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