By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Oct 06, 2014 at 1:56 PM Photography: Bobby Tanzilo

There have been rumors, rumblings and moves to revamp and reopen the Modjeska Theatre for a while now. A new partnership and plan proposed today, however, hopes to push the legendary Mitchell Street theater – which has been closed for nearly five years – even further toward its next act, although that, too, is not without controversy. 

This afternoon, William Stace – founder of the Miramar Theatre – announced that he and Larry Widen, former owner of The Times and Rosebud Cinemas, have formed a group called The Milwaukee Theatre Alliance.

However, John Kesselman, vice president of the Mitchell Street Development Opportunity Corp., vehemently denied the theater is for sale. In two phone calls, he had plenty of opinions about Widen and Stace but refused to discuss the topic on the record with

Widen had, until recently, been working on the restoration of the theater, built in 1924.

According to Stace, the group's plan, which has begun the search for investors, is to purchase the long-closed theater and reopen it as a multi-use performing arts space, mainly for concerts and neighborhood and community-based performing groups (several of which, according to the proposal sent to investors, have already expressed interest in being regular renters for the space).

The reopened Modjeska, according to Stace, would also serve as essentially a big sister space for the Miramar, with bigger performances and acts getting pushed over to the significantly larger 1,300-seat venue (as compared to the Miramar's 327-seat capacity). 

"The Miramar Theatre gets shows that are too big for us and then we have to move them to somebody else, so I want a bigger spot to be able to put them in," Stace explained. 

In addition to live performing arts shows, the Modjeska, as envisioned by Stace and Widen, would also screen movies on non-performance days. 

Stace and Widen said they are currently looking for investors. The goal of the group is to raise around $700,000 in order to purchase, remodel and open the Modjeska Theatre. 

"We have something of a two-stage plan of just opening the lower floor first to get things moving and generating some income and then we can go from there," Stace said. 

If successful, the second stage would involve purchasing the Miramar Theatre building at an additional $700,000. Stace noted that the Alliance would then work on opening up the second floor of the Modjeska, which includes office space that could be rented.

The Modjeska is currently owned by a non-profit trust called the Mitchell Street Development Opportunities Corp. Recently, the group and crews of volunteers had worked on cleaning up, repainting, fixing the roof and tidying up the old theater to show it off during the Doors Open Milwaukee event.

However, there is still work and remodeling to be done – especially after a pipe burst in the basement in February – and official plans for a reopening are still up in the air.

In the spring, the Modjeska announced that it would reopen in November. More recently, project manager and theater board member Jesus Enrique Nañez said the theater reset its opening goal to 2015.

Stace had no specific projected opening date for the Modjeska under his plan – if successful – but said he'd "like to get things started as soon as possible."

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.