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Milwaukee, WI: Landmark Downer Theatre Closed

Posted on Wednesday, September 20, 2023 4:20 PM

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The Landmark Downer Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has closed unexpectedly, leaving moviegoers on Milwaukee's Upper Eastside without one of their favorite places to see a movie.

Located on North Downer Avenue (hence the name), the movie theater billed itself as the oldest operating movie theater in Milwaukee and was known for playing independent movies. It posted the following message to its Facebook page earlier today:

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.

According to our records, the theater originally opened December 3, 1915 as a single screen location with 1,200 seats. Landmark Theatres took over in 1989, and it was twinned in 1990. This was Landmark's last Wisconsin location.

View photos of the Landmark Downer Theatre

While some may try to draw parallels to the fact that the Marcus Southgate Cinema closed earlier this month, I don't feel as though there is much to gain from connecting the two events. The Downer was a neighborhood theater that showed arthouse movies and the Marcus Southgate Cinema was a standalone multiplex that could easily have been located in a suburb, much like the other two Marcus locations that closed this month.

Reasons for Closing, What To Do About It, and Will It Reopen?

Landmark Theatres has not issued any official statements about the theater's closure, but this very often boils down to numbers. Theaters are businesses just like any other, and they depend on revenue and profit in order to continue. Many times, we see small neighborhood theaters close and the news is met with cries for someone to "save the theater" or assailing the owners for not giving them enough notice, but then those comments are often followed by the same people saying that they haven't been to the theater in years.

These two statements are in direct conflict with each other. If you want to "save" your favorite theater before it closes, you need to see movies there and buy concessions. Bring your friends, and go on a regular basis. If you like to see the neon marquee lighting up the sidewalk, make sure that you're doing more than just driving or walking by and admiring the view!

Maybe there is a future for the Downer Theatre. Milwaukee Film operates the Oriental Theatre nearby, and that used to be a Landmark Theatres location, so just maybe... Nothing has been announced, though.

Do You Have Memories of the Downer Theatre?

If you would like to share your memories of going to the Downer Theatre, please leave a message on the Reader Comments page for the theater!

Nearby Theaters

Moviegoers in the area will need to visit one of the other nearby theaters, including the Oriental Theatre less than a mile away on Farwell and North Avenues, and the ACX Cinemas at Bayshore in Glendale.

If you're looking for the neighborhood theater experience, be sure to watch a movie at these movie theaters in the Milwaukee metropolitan area:

Photo above: April 2014 file photo by Scott Jentsch. Copyright © SVJ Designs, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Many thanks to reader Ron H. for notifying us of this news!

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