Opened: February 18, 1928
Architect: Ralph Beaudry, United Studios, Inc.
Architectural Style: Spanish Colonial Revival
Original Construction Cost: $600,000
Original Construction Time: Six months
First Movie: "Finders Keepers" starring Laura LaPlante (silent)
Named to the National Register of Historic Places: December 1999
Number of Seats: 1153
Number of Stars in Auditorium Ceiling: 240
Number of Theater Organ Pipes: about 800
The Sheboygan Theater was constructed for the Milwaukee Theater Circuit of Universal Pictures Corporation at a cost of $600,000. Designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style, it is an example of the atmospheric movie theater developed in the 1920s. Photos show views of the theater construction site in 1927 from excavation, steel framing to brick work.
The theater's grand opening occurred on February 18, 1928, and featured Laura LaPlante in the silent movie Finders Keepers, accompanied by Melvin Peacock on the Wurlitzer organ and an orchestra conducted by Ignatz Gadsky. In May 1928, a short circuit in the ticket office caused a fire and $1,000 worth of damage.
The theater was a success and became Sheboygan's premier motion picture and theatrical venue. Over the years popular Hollywood and New York performers graced the stage of the theater, which included appearances by Abbot and Costello, the Marx Brothers, Duke Ellington, Guy Lombardo, and Glen Miller.
The theater was purchased in 1930 by Warner Brothers. In 1934, Manager Fred Reeths, Jr. claimed, "Here at your Warner's Sheboygan Theater, you have the ultimate in entertainment…in recreation and pleasurable enjoyment…the complete relaxation from business and home worries. The Sheboygan Theater was built to serve this entire community."
Warner Brothers operated the theater until 1966, when it was sold to Marcus Theaters Management Company. Marcus restored the theater's Mediterranean décor and removed the original outdoor ticket booth, replacing it with a walnut-paneled ticket desk in the lobby. But by then the introduction of television and the growing popularity of smaller movie theaters already had taken their toll. Recognizing a trend, in 1980 Marcus remodeled the theater's interior, abandoning the balcony and creating two single-story theaters within the building. The twin theaters operated under the name Plaza 8 until closing in 1992.
Sixty-four years after it opened, the theater closed its doors and would stand vacant for the next five years.
On December 31st, 1996 the Weill Center Foundation, Inc purchased the building for the purpose of preserving, restoring and overseeing the future operation of the historic theater.
The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior and the State of Wisconsin Register of Historic Places by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin on December 22, 1999.
The theater's second grand opening came in October 2001 with a gala performance by the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra. Since its reopening seven years ago, nearly 500,000 have enjoyed movies and attended concerts at the restored and renovated theater. With a full schedule of classic films, concerts, special events and corporate events, the Stefanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts is a vital part of the Sheboygan community.