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West Allis, WI: Paradise Theatre Sees New Life as a Church Instead of Death by Wrecking Ball - Photos

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2012 9:51 AM by Scott Jentsch

In February 1996, the Paradise Theatre in West Allis, Wisconsin stopped showing its line-up of classic movies, which fit well with the historical theater, which was built in 1929. As with most single-screen historical theaters left behind by the march of progress, the future of the Paradise was very much in question.

News stories of renovations and rehabilitations were countered by mentions of razing and destruction. Those with an appreciation for the past hoped for the best while developers and city planners salivated at the idea of change. The challenges of operating a historical single-screen theater in need of restoration made it almost certain that the fate of the Paradise would be like so many across the country that now reside only in the archives of historical societies and a few web sites hoping to keep their memory alive even after their death.

Fortunately, the Paradise Theatre building has found a new purpose which appears to be saving a majority of its architectural elements. The Epikos Church in Milwaukee is expanding by converting the Paradise Theater into one of its satellite locations. The Journal Sentinel reports in an article published on May 13, 2012 that Epikos is investing nearly $2 million into the project:

"It would have been horrible to take a wrecking ball to it," [Rev. Danny Parmelee] said of the former Paradise Theater, near S. 62nd St. and W. Greenfield Ave., which is being transformed into a satellite site for the growing church.

"We want to be a gathering place in West Allis," he said. "We want to be part of the city's revitalization."

Most significant to anyone that has attended the Paradise Theatre is the photo gallery that the Journal Sentinel published with the article. The photos show the main staircase, lobby, and theater areas, and they look pretty good! While the theater's color scheme seems to be different than what I remember when I was last there in the 90's, it seems like they have done a pretty good job of retaining the core elements of the theater's architecture.

Click the Read link below to view the photos.

It seems that Epikos Church has found some success with people, and hopefully this means that the renovations will be completed and the building maintained well. Many times, old theaters are torn down because of lack of maintenance compromises the building and creates safety issues.

For those of us that look back with fondness of the memories of seeing classic movies being shown at the Paradise Theatre, perhaps we can hope that after Sunday services, they'll consider doing some Sunday matinees...

What Do You Think?

Is this fate a good one for the Paradise Theatre? Is it better for a historical theater to be saved to live another day, or if it isn't showing movies, should it have been put to rest so as not to diminish its legacy?

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