from the former downtown theater shine Thursday in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News
WEST BEND - If you drive
through the heart of the city right after the sun has set, you
can’t help but notice the marquee of the West Bend Theatre
lighting up the night.
Its movie patrons, however, are long gone, along with the films
that attracted folks to Main Street during the theater’s heyday.
It sits essentially empty, awaiting the next stage of its life,
according to Matt Prescott, a partner in Ascendant Holdings, a
Madison-based company that has owned the building at 125 N. Main
St. since May 2012.
“When we bought it, we never intended to do anything with it
other than make sure it was structurally sound and to take it
back to its vaudeville theater configuration,” Prescott said in
a phone interview Thursday. “The building had been vacant for a
long time before we bought it. Over the years, it had been
divided into three theaters, two on the first floor and one on
the second. We did take down the partition between the two on
the first floor to reopen that space.”
In January 2013, some unexpected work needed to be done when
some pipes froze, Prescott said.
The West Bend Theatre opened on Nov. 26, 1929, to great fanfare,
according to an article in the West Bend Pilot on Nov. 28, 1929.
“Beautiful show house opened its doors to
the public Tuesday evening, attendance 1,200,” the story’s
headline states. “The motion picture, ‘A Perfect Day — an all
talking comedy,’ concluded the theatre’s program on its opening
photo of the interior of the West Bend Theatre was submitted by
Matt Prescott, owner of the building.
The West Bend Theatre was one of four movie
houses in West Bend.
Prescott, who grew up in West Bend, said by
the time he was old enough to attend movies, the West Bend
Theatre had been divided in two, featuring two screens. Sometime
in the 1990s, its balcony area was redesigned to hold another
“I do have some good memories there,”
Prescott said of the theater.
For now, the building is minimally heated
and its attention-getting marquee is on an automatic timer.
“We haven’t had any contact with Matt about
the building since the pipes froze,” West Bend City
Administrator T.J. Justice said Wednesday afternoon. “Nothing in
the way of plans for the theater have been submitted and there
are no recent permits for work.”
Prescott said the building is for sale,
although it has not been listed with any realty.
“I’ve been talking to
people about selling it. We want to make sure that whoever buys
it will be the right stewards for it and will set it up for
whatever the next cycle of its life will be,” Prescott said.