Avalon Atmospheric Theater

2473 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue,
Milwaukee, WI 53207

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Showing 1 - 25 of 75 comments

Trolleyguy on September 16, 2019 at 10:42 am

Correct website link: http://avalonmke.com/

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 3, 2016 at 2:38 pm

So many times restoration plans come and go. But this guy got it done, and it looks like he did a fantastic job. I had heard the second theater would be in the old balcony. But from photos on the Avalon web site it seems they must have built it out in an adjoining building.

LouRugani on January 11, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Cinema operator Lee Barczak already knows what you’re thinking: People are staying home in droves to watch movies on Netflix, as large theater chains counter by adding expensive features and the latest technology, such as 64-foot-wide screens, enhanced sound and stadium-style seating with reclining chairs. So, why reopen a two-screen theater in an 85-year-old building that last showed films 14 years ago? Because this cinema is Bay View’s Avalon Theater, a historic landmark that now includes a full kitchen and bar, along with new seats, screens and digital projection. “I think people are interested in an alternate experience, and not just the same experience over and over again,” Barczak said. And, while there’s no denying the challenge from Netflix, Hulu Plus and other streaming services, Barczak believes a lot of people enjoy being with other movie fans to watch films on a big screen. “I don’t think that ever goes out of style,” he said. At least, that’s what Barczak is hoping.

The Avalon, 2473 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., opened Thursday, with showings of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.” The restored theater’s debut came after 11 months of renovations totaling $2 million. The Avalon now features a sit-down dining service for movie audiences, with a menu featuring pizzas, paninis and appetizers, along with popcorn and other traditional movie snacks. There’s also a bar, which has its own separate entrance on Kinnickinnic Ave., and is open to people who aren’t buying movie tickets.

The Avalon first showed movies in 1929. A city report on its historic designation called the Avalon’s design a distinctive example of the Mediterranean Revival architectural style, and the first Wisconsin theater built for movies with sound. Its remodeled touches include over 1,200 new twinkling lights on the cinema’s ceiling to re-create the Avalon’s atmospheric feel of a starry sky, and a new marquee with a design that pays homage to its 1920s roots. The lobby features Moorish arches, twisting Mediterranean columns, figures that resemble gargoyles and a statue of Athena, a Greek goddess — all from the original building.

The Avalon had a seating capacity of around 2,200 when it opened, Barczak said. With new, wider seats, and a layout designed to make it easier for wait staff to serve food, it now can seat 218 in the main auditorium, and 68 in the side theater, he said. Once the main theater’s balcony reopens (that’s been delayed because of the costs of installing an elevator), there would be room for another 60 to 80 patrons, he said.

While Barczak expects the Avalon to draw a lot of Bay View neighborhood residents, he believes it will provide an unusual moviegoing experience that will attract a lot of patrons from other parts of the Milwaukee area. He said east side and downtown residents, in particular, will likely see the Avalon as an alternative to the Downer and Oriental theaters, both owned by Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres, the nation’s largest art house cinema chain.

Barczak, whose businesses include Rosebud Cinema, 6823 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, and Times Cinema, 5906 W. Vliet St., has the advantage of owning the Avalon building, which includes additional retail space and 19 apartments that generate cash. He also operates Morgan Kenwood Advisors LLC, a Greendale financial planning firm, and has experience running dining operations at the Rosebud and at his Sheridan House and Cafe, a boutique hotel and restaurant, 5133 S. Lake Drive, Cudahy.

Barczak is a movie buff, and said there will always be a place for theaters — despite the technological advances that make it easy to watch movies at home, or on the go. “I could watch movies on this,” Barczak said, waving his smartphone. “But there’s nothing like seeing it on the big screen.”

(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Tom Daykin covers commercial real estate and development.)

spectrum on January 4, 2015 at 11:04 pm

They have opened! First run movies under an atmospheric sky!

spectrum on September 25, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Direct Link to the Avalon Theatre webpage:


spectrum on September 25, 2014 at 6:25 pm

According to this May 2014 article, the renovation is well underway, with reopening planned for August:


Trolleyguy on August 23, 2014 at 10:02 am

Website: http://www.timescinema.com/

LouRugani on April 1, 2014 at 11:51 pm

A new traditionally-styled 24-by-24-foot aluminum marquee and vertical sign is planned by owner Lee Barczak for his Avalon Theatre, expected to reopen this summer after a 14-year dark spell.

The Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission says the bronze-toned vertical will spell AVALON in large red letters trimmed in frosted gold and was designed by Ascend Design in Muskego, Wisconsin. Though not a replica of the original vertical sign, it honors the theatre’s era and heritage. Energy-saving electronic LED lighting will be used on attraction boards, “Not features found on historic theater signs, but increasingly necessary to meet the needs of the movie theater business today,” according to a MHPC spokesman.

Ascend Design’s goal with the vertical: “glorif(y) the existing architecture while paying homage to both the aesthetics and principles of the atmospheric type movie theaters of the 1920s…combining elements of the existing design with the use of modern materials and technological components,” according to the plan, and will cost about $50,000 out of the project’s total $1.8 million cost.

LouRugani on November 27, 2013 at 8:54 pm

From Real Estate, Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Renovation work finally begins for Avalon Theater

A $1.8 million project to renovate and reopen the long-closed Avalon Theater in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood began recently. The project, which has been planned for years, could be completed in time for the theater to open in May. “We’ve started work on the exterior,” said Lee Barczak, the owner of the Avalon Theater. The work that is under way includes roof and exterior masonry work, he said. Barczak, who is also the president and founder of Greendale-based Morgan Kenwood Advisors LLC, also said he is in the process of signing contracts with contractors to do the interior work for the project.

Barczak bought the theater in 2005. His plans to remodel and reopen the theater, which closed in 2001, were delayed when funding sources dried up during the Great Recession. “We had a project ready to go before (the Great Recession),” he said. “That put everything on hold.”

The building, located at 2469-83 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., was built in 1928. “It’s actually in quite good shape as far as the structure goes,” Barczak said. But it needs significant interior upgrades. The redevelopment project will create two movie theaters, one with 240 seats and the other with 70.

All of the interior infrastructure and utilities will be replaced. The project will also include a new kitchen, new concession stands and new bathrooms. The theater will have a bar that will serve food that movie-goers can have served at their seats. Tables will be built into the seat rows. The Avalon Theater will show first-run films, Barczak said.

Last year Barczak formed the Neighborhood Theater Group and acquired the Times Cinema at 5906 W. Vliet St. in Milwaukee and the Rosebud Cinema at 6823 W. North Ave. in Wauwatosa, after those theaters had financial problems in 2011 and were closed after Madison-based AnchorBank foreclosed on the properties.

Barczak said he has worked to improve the relationship between the Times and the Rosebud and Hollywood and is now showing first-run movies at those theaters. “We hired a professional booking agency,” he said. “They’ve worked with us to reestablish our position and credibility.”

rwwing on July 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Looking for photos of theatre pre 1965. Used to go there as kids, lived block away.

d0nut on March 16, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Here is a link to the sale page:


d0nut on March 16, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I went to the sale viewing today. It was more than a little depressing to see the mess it has become.

I’m not thrilled with the idea of it being stripped but the alternative is for it to just rot away as is.

There was a “no photography inside” sign posted but I may have missed it on my way in…. ;)

nevermix on March 16, 2013 at 4:48 pm


Sad news for Avalon fans – It looks like they are auctioning off everything inside the building. I had such hopes that the beautiful Avalon would make a comeback.

nectarsis on August 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm


Hope perhaps (FINALLY)?

PCino on April 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Drove past the Avalon (4/21) today doing business in the area and the theatre looked dismal! The marquee,what’s left of it, was all broken up, the glass entry doors are boarded up with a black painted piece of wood and the display cases are broken and the light sockets within them are exposed. So, is the Avalon totally abandoned now? Certainly not the same as the picture Chuck1231 shared with us a year ago! Heart rendering :(

d0nut on February 9, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Here is a page from Organ Piper Pizza here in Milwaukee (Greenfield) claiming to have part of the Avalon organ:


Can anyone confirm?

rivest266 on October 10, 2010 at 3:40 pm

No ad on May 1, 1929 for the Avalon,
oldest ad is at the bottom left of this page at View link

LouisRugani on April 19, 2010 at 9:15 am

Avalon Theatre’s future uncertain
(Bay View Compass, April 1, 2010)

The Avalon Theatre may be sold to another owner or operator, according to 14th District Alderman Tony Zielinski, who said he’s still working to get a movie theater open somewhere on Kinnickinnic Avenue.

“We’ve been trying to set up to expedite a sale to another individual to open up the deal, or a lease, or a lease with option to purchase, or something, so we can get something going. And right now, if we’re not able to work out a deal on the Avalon, and it doesn’t look like anything’s going to happen with the Avalon, then we’re looking at a fallback position to get something else open on KK,” Zielinski said.

In March, Zielinski said he’d met with Avalon owner Lee Barczak three times in the past four months, reiterating his support for a tax incremental finance district to help with Avalon redevelopment. In 2005, Zielinski supported a $75,000 grant to help offset Avalon renovation costs.

Zielinski did not identify the individual to whom he’s looking to expedite a sale, but said the person has “plenty of experience” in Milwaukee. “This is somebody else that’s operated theaters before.”

Barczak bought the Depression-era atmospheric movie palace at 2469-83 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. from Craig Ellsworth, who then built Carleton Grange Pub in St. Francis. Over the past five years, Barczak made public several modified plans to renovate and reopen the Avalon. But when those plans didn’t appear to move forward, he said they were prevented because he could not secure sufficient financing in a tight credit environment.

According to city assessment data, the Avalon property has over $62,000 in unpaid property taxes and penalties for 2008 and 2009. The property is assessed at just over $1.1 million.

Zielinski offered no timeline.

“It’s up to these individuals. I know this person I’m dealing with, he’s very interested in it, as I am,” Zielinski said. “But we want to exhaust all possibilities with the Avalon first, because that’s, obviously, the best place to have the theater.”

Barczak declined a request for interview in February, saying by email only that he was working on several possibilities.


kencmcintyre on March 14, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Here is an October 1970 ad from the Milwaukee Journal:

ProjectionistTimmyBoy on June 15, 2009 at 2:46 am

Just to clarify- I’m looking for close ups of just the box office but any old pics of the theatre (like the two posted above by Lost Memory) will be appreciated.

ProjectionistTimmyBoy on June 15, 2009 at 2:44 am

Does anyone have a picture of the beautiful old box office that used to be in front of the theatre? Anyone who lived in Bay View when the Avalon was still operating remembers it and the life sized Crypt Keeper that occupied it.

It was a sad day when I walked past it to see nothing but an empty space where it used to be. I hope somebody had the heart to save it so it didn’t end up in a scrap pile somewhere.

I want to feature the Avalon Theatre is all its past glory on the cover of a comic book I’m developing with an artist friend of mine but I can’t find any pics of the old box office for reference.

Please E-mail me any pictures you may have or any info to point me in the right direction.

MiltonSmith on February 17, 2008 at 2:40 am

Triplex? that would be terrible. chop it up further, great idea.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on February 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

So he’s going to triplex the place.


If he needs more screens he could build better ones by converting another part of the building, as was the case with Chicago’s successful Music Box. He could also build them on adjacent land if it is available. Two small cinemas don’t require very much property. The cinema business learned in the 70’s and 80’s that new screens hacked out of old theatres are oddly proportioned and don’t make for a great experience.

By taking these suggestions he will have better presentation, and the theatre won’t get screwed up.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on February 3, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Avalon theatre web site listed in 8/20/07 comment is gone now. That is not a good sign.