By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Mar 05, 2024 at 10:26 AM Photography: Bobby Tanzilo

In great news for the Milwaukee movie landscape, the Downer Theatre – after closing last fall – is coming back, as Milwaukee Film announced today that the organization will take over the historic East Side cinema this spring.

Milwaukee Film will take over and reopen the Downer on Friday, April 12, serving immediately as a part of the upcoming 2024 Milwaukee Film Festival along with the Oriental Theatre, the Avalon and the Times Cinema. The Downer will then stay open after the two-week festival for regular business beginning on Friday, April 26 with a focus on first-run independent, foreign, and documentary screenings. 

“The Downer Theatre, with its storied past and charm, has been a cornerstone of Milwaukee's cinematic and cultural scene since its opening in 1915. Milwaukee Film and its board are thrilled to bring life back to the theater and cinema back to the neighborhood," said Susan Mikulay, chair of Milwaukee Film’s board of directors, in a press release. "Our mission has always been to make cinematic experiences possible for as many people as possible, and expanding our footprint in this way is a key next step in doing that."

“Our being able to reopen the Downer this spring is a significant occasion for our organization as well as for the neighborhood,” noted Cara Ogburn, Artistic Director at Milwaukee Film, in the release. “When the Downer closed last year, it meant that many films could not show on screens in our city. Adding these two screens to our footprint will allow us to better serve our community with high quality films year-round."

The Downer – at the time run by national cinema chain Landmark Theaters – closed suddenly last September, shutting down the century-old cinema and neighborhood staple. Ever since the closing, however, there were hopes and rumors that Milwaukee Film might take over the space, similarly to how the organization took over and became the steward for the Oriental Theater in 2018.

For more information on the Downer's return – and how you can support the theater's resurrection and beyond – visit this website. And for more information on the upcoming Milwaukee Film Festival, check out this piece on the first dozen movies announced for the cinema extravaganza – which somehow got even more exciting.

And stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for more updates.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.