Gallery Cinema

2138 E. Rusk Avenue,
Milwaukee, WI 53207

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Gallery Cinema Milwaukee Rusk Avenue

The Gallery Cinema was opened in 1975. It had a repertory program screening ‘Classic’ films. It was a labor of love having been built & operated by Henry C. Landa. It operated to 1990.

Contributed by Chief Bob Jensen

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on July 25, 2013 at 6:10 am





LouRugani on May 23, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Correction: This was the GALLERY Theatre, built and operated by Henry Landa.

JS3402 on December 27, 2015 at 6:58 am

Please correct address to “2138 E Rusk Ave Milwaukee, Wisconsin” It is the gray single level building on google maps Jun 2011.

LouRugani on November 23, 2022 at 4:35 pm

Old movies direct film lover into business (KENOSHA NEWS, April 1, 1984, by Dave Engels)

Henry C. Landa leads a double life. By day he teaches industrial management and engineering at the Kenosha and Racine campuses of Gateway Technical Institute. At night and during weekends the film lover is emcee owner and manager of the Gallery of the Audio Visual and Graphic Arts and Sciences, a respectable little theater on Milwaukee’s southeast side. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a family moviehouse: Dad runs the projector, Mom sells popcorn, and the kids lend a hand. too. But the unique nature of the theater doesn’t end there. To thousands of Milwaukee area cinema patrons it’s the place to go to see the greatest movies of all time - the “classics”, if you will. Landa, 49, calls it his “avocation" - a weak description, when you consider it took him eight years to build the theater and a sizeable capital investment to get the business up and running. “It’s an opportunity for people to see movies they normally wouldn’t get a chance to see,” said Landa. “A good movie endures. It can entertain and fascinate years after its release.”

Landa’s passion first produced results in the 1950s when he ran a film society at University of Wisconsin-Madison. “True film lovers are few and far between. Few people go to movies on a regular basis. Even before TV, a significant number never went to the theater.” From his college days Landa recalls a negative critic from the student-run Daily Cardinal newspaper who said “The movies coming out today are garbage.” Says Landa, “People were saying that in the ‘50s and they are still saying it today. Back then it may have been more true because some studios were putting out 50, 60, 70 films a year. "What is a classic? I don’t know. If we could define a classic, we’d probably make a lot more money. 'To Be or Not to Be’ starring Jack Benny is probably not a classic. It’s not a classic like ‘Casablanca’ because that movie-is certainly more well-known” Landa doesn’t have a list of all-time favorites and contends he could never sit and watch the same movie over and over again. Some of his personal opinions might irritate others. “'Gone with the Wind'“ wouldn’t be on my list. It’s a great sweeping story but technically not a great film. I like movies that offer insights; movies that provide some intellectual stimulation.”

Stimulation isn’t high on the list with fans of this theater. “Horror films stand head and shoulders above the rest in popularity. The original ‘Dracula’ holds our box-office record; ‘Frankenstein’ provided us with the first turn-away crowd. We’ve also had big crowds for the original ‘King Kong’, ‘The Wolfman’ and the ‘Invisible Man’ movies.” Landa’s opinion notwithstanding, “Gone with the Wind” drew a large crowd. So do Alfred Hitchcock films. Landa likes to talk about Hitchcock. “He used to spend a year planning his films. He would plan them shot-by-shot, scene-by-scene. He was bored with them by the time filming began because he had it in his head already.”

Landa began constructing the theater in 1973. It took eight years to complete the 123-seat building in less than 2000 square feet. A couple of minutes before the projector rolls, Landa takes on the role of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, telling his audience what the film is about and maybe a little of its history. He then takes a minute-long stroll to the rear of the theater where he turns on the sound system and operates the l6mm and 35mm projectors. “At first we were not going to bother with concessions, but later we found they are a necessity. Some people wouldn’t come to see the greatest of films if there were no concessions.”

Building the theater is a monumental task Landa wishes he could repeat with some changes. “I probably overbuilt. It’s almost too hefty, too durable; it has a double layer of fire-resistant masonry walls. I would work on it six or seven days a week during summers. During the school year, I would work on weekends and at night. A few friends helped here and there, and of course I had to hire contractors for the electrical and plumbing work.” Inside the theater is a tiny lobby. The auditorium has a flat level floor with upholstered seats mounted on steel platforms. Landa does not subscribe to the theory that back theater seats have to be at a higher level than those in front. “If you position the screen and seats the right way, everyone has a good view. You just have to use a little common sense.” Landa purchased used projectors from the empty Granada Theater on Mitchell Street on Milwaukee’s south-side. He once had an eerie experience across the street from his theater at a one-time moviehouse called the Bay Theater “A friend of mine had started a graphic arts busi-ness in the theater building and he told me the old projectors were still upstairs. When we got up there it was like a time capsule. A full reel was still in the projector. The Sunday paper was spread out on the table. There were old cigarette butts in the ashtray. It was as if the theater owner called on a Sunday night and told his crew not to open the next day. The projection room was left untouched for more than 30 years”

“Even though it’s a hobby, it has to be profitable for us to continue,” Landa said. "Right now we are breaking even out of pocket. We are losing on salaries and depreciation. But whether I have a theater or not, I’ll always go to see the great films of the past” (Kenosha News, 1 Apr. 1984, Sun, Page 11.

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