May 11, 2009

Racine's last movie theater to be demolished

The glory days of the Venetian Theatre are long gone in Racine ...

Racine's last movie theater will have one final show within the next month.

The Racine Fire Department, pending approval of the City Council, will use the shuttered Regency Theater, 5230 Durand Ave., for practice drills before the building is demolished, according to Chief Steve Hansen. (The Public Safety and Licensing Committee approved the training Monday night.)

Firefighters will use the old theater, which shutdown last month, to practice forcible entry drills, to cut holes in the building's roof and to bust through walls to simulate rescuing a trapped victim, Hansen said.

The theater will not be set on fire during the training, he said.

"It's rare that the (abandoned buildings) come available," Hansen said. "We try to take advantage of them as quickly as possible."

Marcus Theatres closed the Regency theater, which had been serving as a budget theater since 2006, at the end of April. The company had announced plans to close the theater in January.

The move shut the door on movie theaters in Racine. Marcus closed the Westgate movie theater in 2006 after opening the 12-screen Renaissance theater on Washington Avenue in Sturtevant. Racine no longer has a theater that shows movies.

Prior to Regency closing, Racine had an active movie theater until at least 1928, when the Venetian Theatre opened Downtown (I couldn't find the date the Rialto opened).

No date has been set for the Regency theater's demolition, Hansen said.

Hansen will appear before the Common Council's Public Safety and Licensing Committee tonight to gain permission for the training. If all goes as expected, the Common Council will give final approval next week and the training, which will involve every member of the department at different times, will occur within four weeks, Hansen said.

There's no cost for the training, he said.


  1. I'm surprised that Preservation Racine is not rushing to have the theater designated a Historic Building!

  2. Racine does not have a movie theater.

    Once more.

    Racine does not have a movie theater.

    Does anyone NOT see a problem with this?

  3. What about the theater on Washington and West Blvd?

  4. Preservation Racine only cares about old fire stations that are nearly falling down.

  5. If people actually went to movies at these old theaters, they wouldn't shut down. But the fact remains, the stadium-seating multi-plex theaters are the future. It's what people want and that's where the movie dollars have gone.

  6. Does anyone think an theater that showed foriegn or more artys(sundance type) movies and possibly served drinks/food might do well in town?

  7. This building was built in 1984. Has no historic significance. If the comment on Preservation Racine was meant to be sarcastic, then the tone was lost. Posting by Anonymous 5:17pm is the only worthy comment here... including my own.

  8. Yes, people want stadium seating and all the perks of a new theater, but couldn't they have renovated Regency or Westgate? The future is that West Racine will be getting all the services while the city crumbles if we let it.

  9. I would rather we use it for training and then demolish it, than to have to look at another vacant building. It has no historic significance.

    However, it is not our last theater - sadly, there is still one in Uptown. Could Racine support an art film theater? Milwaukee has two, the Downer and the Oriental. It would save me an hour's drive...

  10. Kenosha's Rhode theater is very nicely renovated. It is low on the tech frills with lots of charm. They got a grant for some of the work. We shouldn't miss the opportunity to save one of our gems here.

  11. Oh, Kenosha holds the farmers market year round inside the theater. They sell homemade sauces, cheeses and soaps. Very nice.

  12. I would love an artsy theater! I would go there all the time!
    Or maybe something along the lines of this:
    They are a theater chain based out of Texas that shows a mix of indie/eclectic/avant garde movies and popular first runs. They also have a full menu and bar, with each group of seats having its own table. Waiters come to your seat, take your order and bring the food right to you! I have been to one in Austin, Texas, that also had a stage for live performances. It is a very cool experience!
    Parkside is able to make the foreign film series work. I bet with the right type of investor, an awesome downtown theater could work. Can you say “Mid-West Summer Film Festival”????

  13. The drawback to the idea of an arts/foreign film theatre where drinks are served is that serving alcohol could preclude anyone under 21 from attending (and college students in particular would be a substantial bloc of persons who would be interested in watching art films). Personally, I'd enjoy such a place, but would it be economically viable? A coffee house setting might work.

  14. I hear your concerns, Paul. But actually, the Alamo Drafthouse Theaters usually allow all ages, just like restaurants with bars allow people of all ages. I think this could work, and maybe as opposed to bringing one to downtown, it could be the anchor for uptown (like 1501 Washington Ave, or 1407 South Memorial Drive or *1322 Washington Ave*)
    I love living in Racine, and I think with a little more effort it could be an even better place to live and recreate, as well as attract outside visitors/talent.

  15. Going to the movie theater after a long day of work may be the entertainment you enjoy every single day, but, if you keep doing this day after day, you will soon notice that it works out to be very expensive. So, if you truly want to continue watching films everyday, a home theater system may be just what you need.