NEW DETAILS at 4:45 p.m. CST on Sept. 20, 2023: While it appears like the iconic century-old Downer Theatre on Milwaukee’s East side will be closing down, Milwaukee Film may have other plans in mind.
Bre Graziano, the Director of Communications and Marketing for Milwaukee Film, joined Wisconsin’s Afternoon News to discuss future possibilities, confirming that the organization is in conversations with the Downer Avenue Business Improvement District and Bridge33 Capital.
“It has been a sad day for the community, reeling from the loss of this iconic theatre,” Graziano told WTMJ. “We would just be absolutely thrilled to see what happens next, and see what we can to do continue to foster cinematic experiences and community development and engagement through film.”
For Milwaukee Film, preserving historic and iconic theatres within their city is not just a goal — it’s their mission. They have done vital work in preserving and highlighting the Oriental Theatre, which is only a few years younger than the Downer Theatre.
While there is no definitive plan or agreement in place at this stage of the process, it’s an active effort by Milwaukee Film.
“When it comes to seeing how we can work together to honor that tradition, and honor the heritage that the Downer Theatre has given to the community for well over 100 years is something that we’re very ambitious about speaking with them further about,” Graziano said.
The following breaking news story has been left unaltered from its original publishing.
MILWAUKEE — Landmark’s Downer Theatre, the City of Milwaukee’s longest-tenured movie theatre which has been a staple of the community for more than 100 years, suddenly announced that it has permanently closed on Tuesday night.
The following statement was released by the Downer Theatre via social media: “Landmark’s Downer Theatre is now closed. We are proud to have served its community over its many years of operation. We thank you for your support.”
This announcement drew immediate reaction from Milwaukee natives, residents and movie-goers alike with commenters on the post surprised by the closure. It’s beloved specifically by people who grew up or reside in Milwaukee’s east side, where the Downer Theatre was a community staple for generations.
The Downer Theatre is known to many for showing foreign and independent films on a consistent rolling basis. It was most recently owned and operated by Landmark Cinemas, a group that operates movie theatres across 17 states excluding Wisconsin, which has been removed from its website.
Before it was removed, the website described the Downer Theatre as “one of the finest and most modernly equipped motion picture houses in a residential district in the country, making it the prototype for ‘neighborhood’ theatres at the time.”
Many are now asking what the future will hold for the east side building. Local entrepreneur and philanthropist Andy Nunemaker hinted at what could come in a post on the “Old Milwaukee” Facebook page:
Nunemaker has experience with property renovation in Milwaukee; he previously purchased the UWM Alumni House in 2021 with plans to restore it for private residence.
This is a breaking news story. An update and/or follow-up could be issued if further details are revealed.
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