Reported in The Stanley Republican Weekly, dated March 27th 1936 was this announcement:

“The Heywood Amusement Co., of New Richmond, WI wishes to announce their decision to build a new motion picture theater on the site of the present Star Theater and N.S.P. (Northern States Power) building.”

In 1927 or 1928 The Star Theater business was purchased by The Heywood Amusement Co. from then Tom Foster, who was the pioneer of regular movie exhibition in Stanley at this site since 1912 – 1913.

At this time a sound system was installed to accommodate the new ‘Talkie Movies‘, and in 1929 plans were drawn for the new theater. The stock market crash of 1929 and the more infamous nationwide Great Depression placed this plans on an indefinite hold – 1936 these plans once again came to fruition.


A second newspaper announcement a few weeks later read like this:

With the purchase of the Star Theater and N.S.P. building properties, an architecturally beautiful theater, with every modern comfort and convenience for the Stanley area theater patrons, will be erected on this site starting April 30th 1936. Dimensions of the new theater building are to be 44 feet in width by 120 feet in length – seating 500 patrons.

On April 29th, 1936 “The Voice of Bugle Ann” starring Lionel Barrymore and Maureen O’Sullivan together with a “Silly Symphony” short and “New Reel News”, was the last fanfare for the old Star Theater.


On the morning of April 30th 1936 demolition began.

On July 1st and 2nd 1936, test runs of the new theater, with the showing of “One Rainy Afternoon” starring Francis Lederer and Ida Lupino, were held.The official opening was Friday July 3rd 1936, with the showing of “The Moons Our Home” staring Margaret Sullivan. The second feature of this billing was the biggest sports spectacular of the time; The Max Schmeling & Joe Louis13 round Heavy weight prize fight. Admissions for all seats were 25 cents.

At this time the theater was operated with no official name, but a theater naming “Grand Prize” contest was held. The name “Stanley Theater” was announced as – the winner!

The front of the theater was graced by, a full building width, 12 foot over the sidewalk and 12 foot high marquee, fully lit from top to bottom with neon and running lights. The front of theater was fully faced with black, green and white mirrored glass.The buildings structure, comprised of brick, reinforced concrete, and steel, was completely to ‘building code’. During World War II, it was designated as one of only a few, registered bomb shelters in Stanley.

Over $125,000 was reportedly spent on this project – a building project that was demolished, reconstructed and was operational in 2 months time. All of this in 1936!

For quite some time, it was advertised as “The Fanciest Place” between Milwaukee, WI and The Twin Cities, MN.

With the latest in complete air conditioning, Alexander Smith Carpeting throughout the theater including the upstairs lounge and basement lobby, beautifully hung Art Deco light fixtures and decorations throughout. As an added perk a very gifted local artist and mural painter “Bert Robinson” drew and painted a very eye appealing interior wall décor in the lobbies and auditorium walls.

All of that, and the latest in movie exhibition equipment made this theater ‘A Real Gem’ for its time!


Check out a short documentary of our Mother Cecilia Eslinger on PBS Wisconsin Life  https://www.wisconsinlife.org/story/small-town-theater-family-affair



Stanley Theater