Preserve this historic landmark theater in order to provide & sustain a majestic performing arts venue for the community and to serve the people of Sheboygan County and surrounding communities with the opportunity to enjoy cultural, educational, civic, and corporate events that will entertain and inspire.
The Sheboygan Theater was constructed in 1927-1928 for the Milwaukee Theatre Circuit of Universal Pictures Corporation at a cost of $600,000. Designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style, it is an especially fine and intact example of the “atmospheric” type movie theater developed in the 1920s.
The theater’s grand opening occurred on February 18th, 1928, and featured Laura LaPlante in the silent film Finders Keepers, accompanied by Melvin Peacock on the Wurlitzer organ and an orchestra conducted by Ignatz Gadsky.
The theater was an instantaneous success and immediately 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.
Warner Brothers purchased the theater in 1930. In 1934, Manager Fred Reeths, Jr. claimed, “Here at your Warner’s Sheboygan Theatre, you have the ultimate in entertainment…in recreation and pleasurable enjoyment…the complete relaxation from business and home worries. The Sheboygan Theatre 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.
In 1980 Marcus remodeled the theater’s interior, abandoning the balcony and creating two new single-story theaters within the building. The twin theaters operated under the name Plaza 8 until closing in 1992.
On October 7, 1996, the Weill Center Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) corporation, was established and became the driving force in the preservation and restoration of the Sheboygan Theater.
A group of dedicated local volunteers began an ambitious five-year restoration project, and solicited the help of nationally recognized restoration companies who provided the expertise to bring back to life Sheboygan’s premier historic movie palace. The restoration project returned the theater back to its original 1928 appearance as accurately as possible while behind the scenes, the theater received all new electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and beautiful new dressing rooms.
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.
The theater is now home to several local performing arts groups plus presents its own series of live performances and movies. The theater receives no public funding, but relies solely upon the earned income and donations from generous corporations, foundations, families and individuals, plus the efforts of an amazing group of over one hundred volunteers.