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Milwaukee Film officially takes over operation of the Downer Theatre

Milwaukee Film

More than five months after the city’s film lovers had to say goodbye to the Downer Theatre, the historic movie house got a reintroduction Tuesday when Milwaukee Film announced that it will assume operations starting April 12.

The local organization’s potential involvement with the Downer dates back to its closing last September, news of which was accompanied by rumblings about Milwaukee Film taking over and even a statement from the group’s then-CEO, Jonathan Jackson:

“We are honored to be a part of this active conversation and excited about this possibility. We will always champion fostering cinematic spaces and artistic voices and experiences in our community to bring people together any way we can.”

The Downer Theatre’s communal atmosphere will reignite during the Milwaukee Film Festival, which runs from April 11-25. After the close of the festival, regular screenings will resume April 26 with an emphasis on first-run independent, foreign and documentary films.

“This is a story of what dedicated supporters can do,” Milwaukee Film interim CEO Anne Reed said in a release. “By stepping forward to support Milwaukee Film, our community is saving another historic cinema, and all the moments of story and connection that can happen there again.”

Getting the Downer on its feet again from an aesthetic standpoint will be one of Milwaukee Film’s biggest tasks. Compared with its recent salad days, the theater had deteriorated noticeably and scaled back its screenings significantly.

As the organization stated on its website, “Our aim is to revitalize the Downer Theatre to continue charming moviegoers, combining the nostalgia of the past with the innovative spirit of the present, making every visit a unique experience in Milwaukee's rich cinematic history.”

For more information on the latest addition to Milwaukee Film’s cinematic portfolio, including a fundraising campaign to help restore the Downer Theatre, visit the group’s website.