Lyric Theatre

113 W. Milwaukee Street,
Janesville, WI 53548

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A 5-and-10-cent showplace opened on November 16, 1909 by Janesville businessman James Zanias, a native of Greece, and his partner Gus Vlachos. It was closed around 1915.

In 1915 it was moved to 210 W. Milwaukee Street, the site of the former Royal Theatre had operated (1909-1913). The Lyric Theatre was closed by 1920.

Contributed by Louis Rugani

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LouisRugani on October 7, 2010 at 7:51 am

(Janesville Daily Gazette, October 6, 1951)


James Zanias, 72, Janesville businessman since 1908 and coproprietor of Central cafe, was found dead in bed in his room at 203 Center avenue at noon Saturday. Mr. Zanias had worked Thursday and returned to his room at midnight. While he had not complained of being ill, Mr. Zanias had suffered with a heart ailment for several years. He had planned to return to his native Greece in January to visit relatives.

Having learned something of the confectionery business in Chicago Mr. Zanias took his first job in Janesville with the Candy Kitchen, now Homsey’s, when he located here in 1906. Two years later he purchased a part interest in the business, Gus Vlachos being his partner.

Pioneer in Theatre Field

The two men became interested in the new entertainment medium motion pictures and in 1908 they opened the Lyric theatre, a 5 and 10 cent show at 113 W. Milwaukee street. Business was so profitable that Mr. Zanias purchased the Nickelodeon theatre at 210 W. Milwaukee street in 1909. By 1911 Mr. Zanias had bought out his partner’s interest and sold the confectionery store to the Homsey brothers.
Expanding his theatrical enterprises Mr. Zanias became manager of the new Apollo theatre, which in 1913 opened as a vaudeville house which also played stock companies. He operated the Apollo until 1926 when it was sold to Saxe Brothers of Milwaukee. For a short time Mr. Zanias managed the Apollo and Jeffris theatres for the Saxe company and in 1927 he resigned and went to Europe where he spent a year with his mother and sister in Greece.

Operated Myers Till 1939

Upon returning to Janesville Mr. Zanias leased the Myers theatre which he remodeled and opened on Dec. 27, 1929. He operated the Myers until 1939 when he suffered a heart attack that necessitated his being hospitalized for several months.
On June 1, 1940 Mr. Zanias and his cousin William Mihos purchased the Central cafe, 117 W. Milwaukee street.

A native of Eupalion, a village in the northwest part of Greece, Mr. Zanias attended school until he was 14 when he took a job in his uncle’s dry goods store in Massalongi, 53 miles west of his native village. For three years he worked for his uncle and then took a job with a commission firm. Six years later he came to the United States locating first in Chicago.

Always Public Spirited

James Zanias was a public spirited citizen who gave generously to community projects and enthusiastically endorsed welfare and social programs to aid the needy here and abroad. In his love for his adopted country he never lost sight of the plight of the Greek people. Mr. Zanias headed the Janesville committee that raised funds for Greek relief and was a leader to Hellenic organizations. His friends in all walks of life were legion for he had a genial manner and the gift of understanding the problems of those who came to him in need. His boundless enthusiasm for what ever he undertook was an inspiration to those with whom he came in contact.

Surviving are cousins in the States and four nephews living in Greece. The body is at the Ryan funeral home.

As of 2010 the Lyric theatre building is still there.

(Wisconsin Theatres discussion group: )

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 20, 2015 at 6:08 pm

There were two houses called the Lyric Theatre in Janesville, both operated by James Zanias. These lines from a 1998 book, City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville’s history, cover the Lyric’s brief history:

“In 1908, James Zanias opened the Lyric Theater at 113 W. Milwaukee St.; around 1915, it moved to 210 W. Milwaukee St., where the Royal nickelodeon had been housed from 1909 to around 1913. The Lyric closed sometime before 1920.”

rivest266 on April 14, 2021 at 8:56 am

Grand opening ad for Lyric from November 16th, 1909 posted. It opened on the 17th.

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