After a six-month hiatus, the Rosebud Cinema will be back showing first-run movies starting Aug. 31.
The theater at 6823 W. North Ave. has been closed since March 1 when the property went into foreclosure along with the Times Cinema, 5906 W. Vliet in Milwaukee.
The Times is expected to reopen in late September.
Investor Lee Barczak bought the properties for a reported $540,000.
Barczak will own both properties under Neighborhood Theater Group. He has hired David Gigl as his general manager and Larry Widen as the theaters' film buyer and marketer.
For Widen, a 22-year resident of Wauwatosa, it is a homecoming. He managed the theaters from 2007 until their closing. He is grateful for the opportunity.
"It feels wonderful," Widen said. "It's like a rebirth. Lee and I were talking right from the get-go about what to do."
The result is a combination of staying true to the Rosebud experience with some new twists.
Widen pointed out that seating, while still mostly sofas, will be updated over time with the possibility of adding rocker-recliners. Food also will change somewhat with the introduction of a microwave and convection oven to take the place of fryers. Healthier choices will be freshly made sandwiches and possibly made-from-scratch pizza. Just last week, the Rosebud was granted a beer license from the city.
Those menu items are being supervised by Gigl, who has worked for Barczak in a few establishments such as Sheridan's on Milwaukee's South Side. He also managed several Applebee's establishments and casino sites, Barczak said.
The theater's exterior and interior has been completely painted and tuck-pointed where necessary.
Patrons may well recognize employees of the previous operation. Widen said 90 percent of the new staffing will be those same staff members.
Perhaps the most welcome non-change will be the prices, with $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors and $5 for matinee performances.
Widen said the theater will concentrate on giving each customer the best possible experience.
"Lee Barczak is in the restaurant and hospitality business," Widen said. "He's very concerned that the customer has a fabulous experience from beginning to end."
Widen said satisfied customers will tell five others while dissatisfied customers will tell many more.
Part of that experience will be the knowledge that the building has passed virtually every city code imaginable. Widen said the renovation has been a cooperative venture between the theaters and the city inspectors responsible for enforcing building, fire and health codes.
"Because the building was shut down for several months, the city has treated this as a start up," Widen said. "I think it's a good thing because everything will be up to date. It's just that we had missed a couple of anticipated opening dates."
Patience a virtue
Widen has been patient since losing his theater responsibilities in March. The longtime movie and neighborhood theater aficionado has taught photography at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and was contemplating an opportunity to partner with a businessman from Singapore who wanted him to teach colloquial English to his employees.
"I was seriously thinking about that," Widen said. "It would have been interesting, but I really prefer to do this."
Barczak said he is happy to have Gigl and Widen.
"Larry knows how to work with the movie studios and he knows the importance of neighborhood theaters in Milwaukee," Barczak said. "That's important.
Several years ago Barczak bought the Avalon Theater on Milwaukee's South Side. He has rented part of the building, but hopes to reopen the theater.
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