Rosebud, Times Theaters Can Reopen Only After Sheriff's Sale: Attorney
Legal tangles and large logistical costs hold up relighting of the marquees at historic neighborhood movie houses. But some powerful people with Wauwatosa backgrounds have both personal and professional interests in the drama.
The Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse in Wauwatosa and Times Cinema nearby in Milwaukee will reopen as soon as possible, according to the bank that holds the mortgage, the receiving company responsible for maintaining the properties, and the manager they have hired to run the places.
But no date can be set, they said, and their attorney suggests that it could take quite awhile because of legal and business uncertainties — if at all.
Russell Long of the law firm Davis & Kuelthau has represented Anchor Bank in its foreclosure on the properties. He said the theaters would be subject to a sheriff's sale on May 7 and that it would take "another couple of weeks" after that for the sale to be certified.
"Presumably, Anchor Bank will be the owner," Long said. "But that isn't absolutely certain. Somebody could step in and bid on those properties. It isn't likely, but it could happen.
"So, would you want to make a major investment in them, or enter into any long-term contracts, while that is still up in the air? I wouldn't."
Long said that even assuming Anchor retains control of the properties, it could take a long time to put the businesses back into working order. Management would have to bring the buildings up to code, negotiate contracts with film distributors and hire staff, among other things.
"It's my understanding that there's going to be some significant costs involved in getting them reopened," Long said.
But before any of that can happen, another wrench could be thrown into the works, he said.
"The debtor could file for bankruptcy," Long said.
Bankruptcy filing could delay reopening even longer
That would be David Glazer, who had purchased the two theaters at the height of the real estate bubble that burst in 2007. He announced on Feb. 21 that he would be shutting the movie houses down in the first week of March.
The next day representatives of Anchor Bank and Siegel-Gallagher Real Estate, the receiver of the properties, said that the movie houses would reopen almost without interruption under the management of Jay Hollis, who had originally redeveloped the Rosebud from standard theater seating into its current drafthouse style.
However, Glazer shuttered the properties less than a week later and they have remained closed since. Attorney Long called the hoped-for seamless transition "wishful thinking."
According to sources, the turnover from Glazer to Anchor Bank was acrimonious, and the holders found the properties in poor shape.
Anchor Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings against Glazer in August and won a monetary judgment for $146,645.11 in court on Oct. 28, according to Wisconsin Circuit Court records.
Siegel-Gallagher, the court-appointed receiver, filed another court action on March 2 to evict Glazer. The case remains open, according to Wisconsin Circuit Court records, but Long said the eviction action had been resolved.
But, Long said, if Glazer files for bankruptcy — an option he said Glazer was considering — the properties could be tied up in court for a long time.
Glazer did not respond to a phone message left Monday afternoon.
Theaters have friends in high places
It's possible that two small neighborhood movie theaters never had such powerful champions among their holders.
At Anchor Bank, the Rosebud and Times assignments were taken up by Doug Mitcheson, vice president for special assets.
"I live in Wauwatosa, not far from the Rosebud, and I enjoy going to both those theaters," Mitcheson said. "I want them open. And it isn't in the interest of the bank to have them sitting there dark, not producing any revenue.
"We're doing everything we can to get them open and running as soon as possible."
At Siegel-Gallagher, David Behnke is president of the property management division, and handles contracts worth multiple millions of dollars. Yet he took personal control of the Rosebud and Times accounts when Anchor called.
"I grew up in Wauwatosa and went to the Rosebud when I was a kid," Behnke said. "It's very important to me that those properties stay in good condition. I have the responsibility for the properties, and the best way to preserve the properties is to run them as theaters.
"They provide an asset to the neighborhood."
Finally, there is Jay Hollis, who Behnke contracted to manage the theaters after Glazer's departure. Hollis owned the theaters and developed them as concept cinemas before selling to Glazer.
"I really have a place in my heart for them," Hollis said. "They are very special to me, both for their history and for what I put into them."
But despite all that love, there is little that even a powerful banker like Mitcheson, a potent real estate manager like Behnke, and creative businessman like Hollis can do in the face of dominating legal and financial issues.
Long closure bad for the neighborhood
"That's really crappy," said Bobby Pantuso, alderman for the adjoining 5th District, who said he had heard nothing of a sheriff's sale or a possible bankruptcy proceeding. "It's bad for the neighborhood and bad for Wauwatosa.
"Those theaters should reopen sooner rather than later. (The Rosebud) is a key piece of the North Avenue Plan. So many other businesses rely on it — restaurants that need a piece of the theater crowd.
"I hope this can be resolved quickly, before they lose the summer movie season."