Avalon Theater plans soft opening in December

By DWAYNE BUTLER - Post Editor

Dec. 2, 2014

 The Avalon Theater will host a soft opening over a three-day period in December. The landmark theater has undergone significant renovations after it was purchased by Lee Barczak.
Photo by Daryl Skaradzinski/Post Staff

MILWAUKEE The historic Avalon Theater, which has been closed since 2000, plans on having a soft opening next month.

The theater will host three days worth of soft openings, giving visitors a firsthand look at the estimated $2 million renovation of the landmark in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. The events all center around the release of the film "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies."

According to a news release from Alderman Tony Zielinski’s office, on Dec. 15, there will be special tours available throughout the day, a program on the theater’s history and a trio of movies based on the 1937 J.R.R. Tolkien novel. The trilogy includes "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" at 12:30 p.m., "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" at 3:45 p.m. and the new release of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" at 7:15 p.m. Tours of the restored theater will happen during intermissions, with the opening event at 6 p.m.

On Dec. 16 and Dec. 17, the theater will open at 6 p.m. for a tour, to be followed by a 7 p.m. screening of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." On Dec. 17, the theater will feature the artists who previously submitted posters to capture the essence of the Avalon Theater, the release added.

Additionally, the release said guests can share their personal memories of the Avalon each night and receive a special take-home, commemorative program.

Tickets are $100 per person Dec. 15, $75 per person Dec. 16 and $50 per person Dec. 17. Proceeds go to the Bay View Historical Society.

The theater, located in the 2400 block of S. Kinnickinnic Avenue, has undergone a major renovation for more than a year. The project includes a 240-seat main theater that will show first-run movies and an 80-seat theater at the rear of the building that will be used to show art, foreign and other niche films.

Constructed in the 1920s, the theater is believed to have shown the first talking movies in Wisconsin. It also served as a venue for vaudeville shows and once had a seating capacity of 2,300, owner Lee Barczak told The Post last year.

The revamped theaters feature modern, digital movie projection systems, new screens and sound systems and state-of-the-art seating. The theater also plans to offer in-house dining options, along with bar service.

Barczak previously called the Avalon a "historically significant" structure on Milwaukee’s architectural landscape.

Barczak also owns the Times Cinema on Milwaukee’s west side and the Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse in Wauwatosa. He successfully reopened both theaters after purchasing them in a sheriff’s foreclosure sale in May 2012.

He purchased the Avalon in 2005 for $1.1 million.