MANITOWOC, Wis. (WFRV) – In just a couple of months, a staple in downtown Manitowoc will be hitting a huge milestone.
The Capitol Civic Theater is turning 100 years old. In honor of the centennial celebration, the theater is doing a 100-day countdown to June 16, the day the theater opened in 1921. The countdown officially kicked off on March 8, and the Civic Centre is sharing fun, historical facts about the theater on its social media accounts. The Civic Centre is also offering complimentary backstage tours as part of the celebration.
“You’re actually going to get to see the dressing room areas, the administrative offices, and the backstage areas that you wouldn’t normally see, where the shows load into the venue,” says PJ Albert, Executive Director of the Capitol Civic Centre.
“When it originally opened, it was part of a larger complex that consisted of a candy manufacturer, a couple of storefronts and the theater was built within that complex. Over the years the theater has been both a vaudeville theater and a movie house,” says Albert.
In 1986, the community decided to renovate the theatre, so they purchased it from the existing owners and turned it into the Capitol Civic Centre.
“From vaudeville, early movies, to the movies of the 40s, to movies through the wonderful cinema years. That’s a history, and that’s a history that lives in the community of Manitowoc and it also lives within all the people of Manitowoc,” says longtime patron and board member Christine Kornely.
The theater, designed by local architect William J. Raueber, was described as a “notable offering of stellar lights” and a “bower of “beauty” by a Manitowoc newspaper on the opening night of vaudeville entertainment in 1921.
“My first memories of the Capitol Civic Centre are as a movie theater, and I think I saw Cinderella here or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. As a child, I came here for movies and since 1987 I’ve been coming for live performances,” says Kornely.
“Passion Flower,” the 1930s drama film, was the first movie shown in the theater. Movie ticket prices started at 11 cents.
The Theatre’s centennial celebration comes at a pivotal time in history. The Spanish Flu and COVID-19 are 100 years apart.
“It’s exciting to celebrate the 100-year anniversary right after a pandemic just as it was a 100 years ago when this theater opened up,” says Kornely.
History lives on the walls of the Capitol Civic Centre. Many iconic figures from Patsy Cline to Lou Rawls performed onstage, some leaving autographed pictures that are now on display.
“It is a big part of people’s lives in Manitowoc. It’s a big part of the community of Manitowoc. It has taken so much community, love, and spirit to hit the 100 years,” says Kornely.
For more information on the Capitol Civic Theatre’s centennial celebration, click here.