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Question for jimor 25 May 2004 23:45 #20371

  • RoxyVaudeville
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Hey jimor:

I'm hoping that you can help me with a little research having to do with Milwaukee theatres.

I'm working on a story for Marquee magazine about the St Cloud Amusement Company. St. Cloud was a company that was in existance from the mid 20s through the mid to late 50s at which time their theatres were aquired by the Brandt circuit out of New York. They were based in Washington New Jersey, and owned most of the theatres in the small towns of Northwestern NJ. I saw my first movie at an early age at their Washington Theatre in Washington, and my 2nd movie at their Belvidere Theatre in nearby Belvidere, NJ. The Washington was twined during the 70s, but has sat closed for over a year now. The Belvidere has been a playhouse for the past 20 years or so and continues to operate as such. Most of their theatres were in NJ, but they had 4 in NY state, and 2 in Pa. AND according to the 1950 YEARBOOK of MOTION PICTURES they had 3 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Those listed for Milwaukee were the TOWER, ZENITH and the... ORIENTAL! Two of those theatres were I believe built by Saxe. The Zenith was built by Edward Maertz and later sold to Fox. I also know that Fox aquired Saxe, but I believe that when they went through bankruptcy Saxe got them back.

It seems a bit strange that a little circuit of small town theatres in New Jersey would have aquired 3 rather large movie palaces so far away in Milwaukee. If indeed they did, it must have been in the final years that they operated theatres, before they leased most of them to Brandt.

So who better to ask then you Jim, as it appears that you are involved with the Oriental.
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Re: Question for jimor 26 May 2004 10:05 #20372

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Hey Roxy:

I rather think that such an inquiry should have been sent to me by E-mail so as not to take up space on the FORUMS with something that others may find of no interest besides us, but be that as it may, I really have no information beyond what you say here. In fact, I was unaware of the entire ownership sequence of these theatres, but what you say may well be true. The only real way to confirm such data is to go to the newspapers of the time involved and scan the ads and sometimes some editorial mention of them. Sad to say, none of the Milw. papers of that era were indexed, so one would have to order the microfilm rolls of the titles of interest through Inter-Library Loan at your local library, and then scan the reels on a viewer = tedious, eye-straining business! One could also come here and go through the property records at the office of the Register of Deeds and hope that they recorded some contracts there, though the odds against that are very great, and that is another very long search (I did such once years ago, and do not relish it; the records here are kept in cramped mezzanines in the court house with 6-foot ceilings with light fixtures lower than that, and I am 6ft-2in.)!

I hope that your story about the St. Cloud Amusement Co. comes to fruition, but I am sorry if I cannot be of any real help in the matter. My orientation to theatres is structural, technical, and artistic, not the business end, but it is possible that the author of MILWAUKEE MOVIE PALACES, Larry Widen, might possibly know more of what you refer to in that his angle is the business end. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Do not expect him to do private research for you unless you are prepared to pay him for his time.

For me to speculate on how the St. Cloud Amusement Co. came to buy into Milw. would not really be helpful. Perhaps corporate papers filed in NJ, or NY by Brandt, would lend some light on the subject and it is possible that some of their papers were donated to local historical societies. I have never come across any mention of the St. Cloud Co.

And, yes, the TOWER and ORIENTAL were built by Saxe, and the ZENITH by Maertz. All 3 buildings still stand, but only the ORIENTAL is still a theatre. The TOWER is now a county neighborhood hospital, and the ZENITH is a church. I am not formally involved with the ORIENTAL, but do publicize some of its organ events in the hope of bringing revenue to the theatre, regardless of who owns it currently. It is a wonderful place to see a movie, as a feature story in USA TODAY brought out a couple years back, but like all movie palaces, it needs our help and encouragement.

Best Wishes, Jim Rankin
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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