Milwaukee Theatre

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Milwaukee Theatre
Former names Milwaukee Auditorium (1909-2003)
Address 500 West Kilbourn Avenue
United States
Coordinates 43°02′30″N 87°55′03″W / 43.041759°N 87.917404°W / 43.041759; -87.917404
Owner Wisconsin Center District
Operator Wisconsin Center District
Capacity 4,086
Opened 1909 (1909)

Milwaukee Theatre (originally Milwaukee Auditorium[1]) is a theatre located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The building was extensively renovated between 2001-2003, at which point it received its current name.[2] It seats 4,086 people and can be configured into a more intimate venue that seats 2,500.[3] It is located at 500 W. Kilbourn Avenue in downtown Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Auditorium[edit]

The Milwaukee Auditorium was built in 1909, in a place formerly occupied by the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition Building, which had been destroyed by fire in 1905. The Milwaukee Auditorium held 13,520 people, and had 104,952 square feet (9,750.4 m2) of exhibition space.[4] The cornerstone was laid on August 1, 1908, and the building was dedicated on September 21, 1909.[5] At that time philanthropist Elizabeth Plankinton donated a $10,000 pipe organ.[6]

Historical uses included concerts, circuses, political rallies and sports events. For decades the Milwaukee Auditorium boasted its own orchestra, and hosted touring concerts from such historic notables as John Phillip Sousa and Enrico Caruso to contemporary stars like Barry Manilow, Nirvana, Marilyn Manson and Prince. Sitting Presidents from Taft to Clinton delivered important policy addresses in the Auditorium.[7] On October 14, 1912, former president and then current presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech at the Milwaukee Auditorium shortly after a failed assassination attempt that left him with a bullet in his chest. He was shot across the street from the Auditorium at the Gilpatrick Hotel by John Schrank, but declined to go to the hospital before giving his speech.[8]

Structural and cosmetic improvements were made throughout the Auditorium’s life, both before and after a major 1978 renovation brought in modern heating and air conditioning, restored architectural details and overall physical upgrades. However, by the time it was acquired by the new Wisconsin Center District in 1995, the Auditorium’s continued viability was questioned – until a 20-day run of Riverdance, in 1999, shattered sales records and indicated that a market existed for a venue of its size.[9]

Beginning in October 2001, the Auditorium was converted into a theater. The project, which cost $41.9 million, was completed on November 7, 2003.[10]

Since opening, The Milwaukee Theatre has hosted a wide range of convention, corporate, religious and political assemblies as well as Broadway musicals and other entertainment.[11]

Notable events[edit]

Ground level


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  4. ^ William George Bruce, History and City and County. Milwaukee: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1922. pp. 421-432.
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  6. ^ Hampton 1909, p. 120.
  7. ^
  8. ^ John Gurda. Cream City Chronicles: Stories of Milwaukee's Past, pp. 189-191.
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  13. ^ Ronald H. Snyder, "Wisconsin Ends the Political Career of Wendell Willkie." Wisconsin Magazine of History.
  14. ^ Ocala Star Banner, Oct. 24, 1960 at 9.,4938013
  15. ^
  16. ^ Kenneth R. Lamke, Best, Worst of the 1980s.
  17. ^ Michael Finnigan, "Bush Charges Gore Seeks to Be Reform's 'Obstacle-in-Chief.'" Los Angeles Times, Oct. 24, 2000.
  18. ^


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