New ownership breathes life into historic MKE movie theaters

Times Cinema and Rosebud theaters have come under new ownership. Photo by Elise Krivit/elise.krivit@marquette.edu

Shortly after it was announced that two of the area’s oldest movie theaters were closing after 80 years of operation, the theaters received a second chance, with ownership being reassumed by former owner Jay Hollis.

Hollis owned the Times and Rosebud Cinemas, located in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, respectively, from 2005 to 2007. David Glazer bought the properties from Hollis in 2007, when investment properties were booming.

Glazer, citing a tough lending environment in which it is difficult to renew or refinance commercial loans, said in a statement he tried to negotiate with his lender, but the bank ultimately decided to take back the theaters.

Tim Carter, a spokesperson for AnchorBank, the bank that repossessed the theaters, said the new ownership will keep the theaters open.

“Once the ownership transfers, the plan is for the theaters to remain open,” Carter said. “(Hollis) is a former owner. He was very interested and is a logical choice.”

Marquette professor of finance and Bell Real Estate chair Mark Eppli reiterated that foreclosures have been a problem nationwide since the economy turned south.

“Banks lent too much on risky projects and are incurring a lot of the problems today,” Eppli said. “They ended up concentrating a lot on commercial loans. Regulators said that they had to get that debt off the books.”

Eppli said it’s understandable that the Times and Rosebud fell prey to the conditions.

“The value of the land probably took a significant hit,” Eppli said. “It’s hard to get a loan.”

College of Communication lecturer Patrick McGilligan agreed that the theaters’ troubles were related to economic conditions but disagreed about questions surrounding the theaters themselves. The Times and Rosebud are smaller in size than most theaters and feature a lot of classic and independent films.

“I’m sure the underlying story is not popularity, but the economy,” McGilligan said. “Big chains can get past that, but these smaller theaters cannot.”

McGilligan suggested there are many things appealing about the smaller, classical theaters, including their selection.

“Sometimes I go (to the Times or Rosebud) and see something that cannot be seen anywhere else,” McGilligan said. “Sometimes I go to re-watch something just to see it on the big screen. Filmmakers did not make (classic films) to be shown on the small screen.”

Eppli, on the other hand, was not sure whether the business model of the Times and Rosebud can survive.

“Some of these old school theaters have only three to four screens,” Eppli said. “That’s pretty much a model that can’t compete.”

McGilligan disagreed, saying the theaters will always be able to stand on their own, despite the existence of larger, more modern theaters.

“(The Times and Rosebud) work for a certain clientele, and that group will always be there,” McGilligan said.

The Times originally opened in June 1935 in a former auto repair building, while the Rosebud opened in October 1931 as the Tosa Theater.