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Geneva Theater set to open on March 1

Geneva Theater set to open on March 1

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Geneva Theater construction

Worker needs a little extra lift to finish the Geneva Theater marquee on Friday. Looking north along Broad Street.

On March 1, downtown Lake Geneva will again have a movie theater.

That assurance was given by Dan Colwell, who is the manager of the new Geneva Theater on Broad Street.

A grand opening will probably happen the end of March, Colwell said.

Colwell said he was hired in November. And he did get his hands dirty. Colwell said he helped with some demolition and dismantled and removed the old projectors, which were still in the building.

Colwell, his wife Roxanne, and sons Brooks, 1 1/2, and Teagan, 5, took a tour of the 20,000-square-foot, renovated 1928 theater with an interested visitor on Saturday.

The theater is still a diamond in the rough, with workers laying down carpeting and completing interior and exterior detail work.

The venerable theater is being designed for modern audiences.

For example, a “selfie room” with red carpeted walls is planned for the main floor, across from the concession stand.

But the seats are installed, the screens are up and the projectors are calibrated. The seats resemble something you might find in a luxury car or in the luxury class of an airliner. That’s certainly a change from the old fold down seats many residents remember about the old Geneva Theater.

Forget about rewinding film.

Forget about rewinding film. The theater projectors project movies that are loaded, not on film, but on hard drives. The studios then release a key code to unlock hard drives and unscramble the movie, Colwell said.

‘Ready to go’

He said the new projectors are ready to go.

But there will also be a bow to the past. Next to the selfie room will be a historical display of photos of the Geneva Theater when it was a new attraction in the downtown, Colwell said.

The main floor theaters are 1, 3 and 4. Theater 2 is in the former balcony.

The four-plex theater will have 501 seats.

Theater 1 has 220 seats. Theaters 3 and 4 have 100 and 89 seats respectively.

Theater 2 has 92 seats.

Theater 1 also has a retractable screen to allow for live performances.

Right next to Theater 2 on the second floor is a rentable party room. The interior features some of the building’s original exposed brick.

Offices are on the third floor. They are not spacious, but they have a commanding view of the east side of Broad Street. In addition to the exposed brick, Colwell said he would like to save the offices’ steel doors.

That will require some clean up and repair.

Arts career

Colwell said he received his degree in arts management from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

He said he acted in youth theater and looked forward to a career in the performing arts.

But he graduated about the time of the Great Recession, and the arts were hard hit.

He said he finally found his way to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. But the problem with repertory theaters is that they shut down during the summer.

He then took a job with Marcus Theaters. His wife earned a degree as a pharmacist and now works in Burlington, where the family lives, he said.

The theater is being renovated by Burlington businessman Shad Branen.

In March 2016, the city council approved an $895,000 grant from the city’s former TIF district to assist with the renovations along with a developers agreement that set conditions for the grant. Branen has already renovated one old, historic theater, the Plaza Theater in downtown Burlington.

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Chris Schultz has been a reporter for more than 40 years. He has been with the Lake Geneva Regional since 2010. He covers the Lake Geneva City Council and the Lake Geneva area schools.

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