When the Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse celebrated its birthday last year, it commemorated the day by playing two old classics: Citizen Kane and The Birds.
They're old, but the theater itself, at 80 and counting, is older still.
Originally called the Tosa Theater, it has been serving the Wauwatosa community since 1931, when it was opened by Ross Baldwin at 6823 North Ave. The Baldwin family lived across the street from the theater, and the whole family worked there: Ross was the projectionist, his wife, Dorothy, sold tickets, and their children cleaned the theater.
Back in those days, the theater changed pictures every two days, and showed double features on the weekends.
“We’re talking about 100 rolls of film per week, between all the picture changes, cartoons and news reels,” said Larry Widen, Rosebud’s marketing manager.
In 1940, the Baldwins sold the theater to Marcus Cinemas, whoich owned it until 1999.
In 1999, the theater went to a sheriff’s auction, where it was purchased by Jay Hollis. Hollis owned the theater until the summer of 2007, when the current owner, David Glazer, purchased it.
When Glazer bought the theater, there were few changes that needed to be made. The previous owner, Hollis, was the person responsible for removing all the movie theater seats and installing the famous (and very comfortable) plush couch seating inside the theater.
“We have only had to make a couple dozen little improvements along the way,” Widen said.
One of those improvements included updating the concession menu. Rosebud is known for its extensive, and quite impressive, food and beverage menu. Some highlights include:
· chicken sandwiches
· mozzarella sticks
· deserts such as fudge brownies, ice cream sundaes and root beer floats
“Every couch has it’s own table,” Widen said, “and we deliver food right to our customers’ seats.”
This special touch isn’t lost on customers.
Rosebud fan Amanda Buckley said she loves the “warm and homey atmosphere” of the theater.
“You can’t beat getting comfy on a couch, watching a movie and having a Bloody Mary delivered to your seat,” she said.
The Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse is also a Class B tavern, allowing it to sell beer, wine and liquor until 2 a.m. Customers can order beer by the pint or the pitcher, wine by the glass or the bottle, and cocktails such as margaritas, martinis and Bloody Marys.
The theater, which can seat up to 160 moviegoers, has 18 employees. Most of the employees are part time college students.
The cinema takes its name from a scene in one of the most famous movies of all time: Citizen Kane. “Rosebud” was the name of Kane’s sled from childhood that is burned at the end of the film.
There is only one screening room in the theater. So, “Film choice is critical,” Widen said. The cinema regularly shows feature films, which must run at least two weeks – the minimum time studios require movies to be in any given theater.
Widen tracks the success of movies in other theaters when deciding which ones to bring to the Rosebud.
Right now the theater is running Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which Widen expects to run for three weeks. On tap, if the nation-wide numbers hold up, he hopes to show The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.