Discount cinema Market Square Theatre permanently closes | Business News

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Market Square

“It feels like someone I know died,” Deana Thorson said about the closing of Market Square Theatre on Odana Road, where she has worked for 28 of its 33 years.

After nearly 33 years of showing movies for $4 or less a ticket, Market Square Theatre has closed.

The cinema, owned by Silver Cinemas, a subsidiary of Landmark Theatres with five auditoriums at 6604 Odana Road, showed its last movies Thursday night before abruptly closing.

Market Square

Market Square Theatre permanently closed after 33 years.

There appeared to be no forewarning, according to a post on the theater’s Twitter page late Thursday night.

“It was sudden for us as well, and we’re still in shock,” the post read. “Wish we had a silver lining for you but at this point we are still waiting to hear more details from corporate.”

On Friday morning, the frames on the outside of the building that normally hold movie posters were empty. Signs on the front doors of the theater read “Permanently closed” and “Thank you for your support over the last 33 years.” The marquee along Odana Road near the shopping center’s main entrance displayed “closed permanently” in black letters.

There was no indication of the movies that had played Thursday, which included “Belfast,” “House of Gucci,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “The French Dispatch.” Earlier in the week the cinema’s Twitter feed had also been promoting “West Side Story” scheduled to open Friday.

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the business had been closed for 18 months beginning in March 2020 before reopening in September 2021 but was not among the 54 movie theater operators in Wisconsin that received $10 million from the COVID-19 Movie Theater Grant Program, part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Market Square

Market Square Theatre had five auditoriums and opened in 1989, but they are now all closed.

The program provided eligible theaters in Wisconsin average awards of $14,600 per screen, but Flix Brewhouse at East Towne Mall was awarded $131,578, while Marcus Theatres of Wisconsin, with two locations in the Madison area and the fourth-largest theater chain in the country, received $4 million.

It was not clear if Landmark, which had purchased Market Square in the early 2000s, had applied for a grant. The company also owns the Downer Theatre on Milwaukee’s Upper East Side and more than 30 other theaters around the country.

Market Square

The movie poster frames on the exterior of Market Square Theatre were empty Friday morning after the theater announced it was permanently closed.

“We will forever be grateful to have been able to bring affordable movies to the big screen for the Madison area for over 30 years,” the theater tweeted out Thursday. “Sad news indeed.”

When the $1 million Market Square Theatre opened in the summer of 1989, it sold tickets for $1.50, while seniors were charged $1. Those prices gradually rose over the years to $4.

At the time the business was operated by Ken Gruel, president of Milwaukee’s Budget Cinemas, and competed directly with Cinema Plus, a West Side second-run, three-screen theater that ultimately closed in 1992 and is now home to a Rocky Rococo pizza restaurant at Tree Lane and Mineral Point Road.

Middleton also had the 20th-Century Theater, a second-run movie house that showed movies for 99 cents. Located in a Quonset hut and opening in 1947 at 2111 Parmenter St., the business closed in late 1991 and was demolished a few months later to make way for an apartment building.

“The idea behind this is to come into the business with a new movie theater that’s as good or better than high-priced theaters,’’ Gruel told the Wisconsin State Journal in 1989. “The idea is to establish a high level of value for moviegoers so that people will come back. Our business will survive on volume so that’s the way you’ve got to go at it.’’

Market Square

Market Square Theatre permanently closed Thursday after 33 years on Odana Road.

Marcus-owned Point Cinema, located on Big Sky Drive on the site of a former outdoor theater, remains open with 15 screens and first-run movies. The business offers up movies for $5 on Tuesdays, but regular prices are typically around $12 a ticket. Meanwhile, the five-screen AMC movie theater at Hilldale could close this spring if it does not renew its lease. WS Development, which owns the shopping center, has plans for another redevelopment project, and one plan would convert the theater into retail space.

Candice Cearley

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