The Meyer Theatre as the Bay / photo from THS Slide Collection

Meyer Theatre helped galvanize the arts in Green Bay

Written by
Warren Gerds
Green Bay Press-Gazette
12:39 AM, Oct. 15, 2011  

The Meyer Theatre as the Bay / photo from THS Slide Collection

April 1978 saw a big stir about 117 S. Washington St. in Green Bay, something quite different than Friday’s activities surrounding the new marquee on the Meyer Theatre.

In 1978, the owners of the Bay Theatre announced plans to turn the single-screen movie house into a triplex.

This caused alarm, and a “Save the Bay” campaign arose. The hope was to turn the theater into a performing arts center.

A knot of people worried that the theater’s flashy, 1930 vintage Moorish-influenced interior features would be covered up and lost forever by the conversion to the triplex.

This caused alarm, and a “Save the Bay” campaign arose. The hope was to turn the theater into a performing arts center.

A knot of people worried that the theater’s flashy, 1930 vintage Moorish-influenced interior features would be covered up and lost forever by the conversion to the triplex. The concerns about the theater caught attention.

“I’m trying to find out if we have anybody who is interested in preserving it,” Green Bay Mayor Mike Monfils told Green Bay Press-Gazette movie columnist Kathy Ruebel. “I’m kind of hoping somebody would come forward and say this is a good idea.”

A group called Green Bay Area Preservation League told Ruebel for her April 27 column that the theater is “considered to be a Green Bay landmark. It warrants notice and appreciation … for its historical and architectural significance.”

This week, there’s been hoopla at the Meyer Theatre. The new marquee plays on the old/new elements of the theater.

That fits the “Save the Bay” mold in a way, though the Meyer is not a performing arts center in the strictest sense of the term.

However, the theater is active with performances ranging from the silly to the sublime and seems to be thriving as one of the few Fox movie palaces remaining in the nation.

The “Save the Bay” campaign of 1978 was too little, too late at the time. But something soon happened. By June 1979, the Northeastern Wisconsin Arts Council was incorporated.

At one of the meetings, one of the members got up and said, “We should do something big.”

In 1982, Artstreet was born and quickly became a major downtown arts festival. The arts council has a hand in assorted other programs and festivals.

Perhaps “Save the Bay” sparked a consciousness. Perhaps not.

But it’s nice to think that interest in the theater generated something cool other than it being the place that housed Green Bay’s first air conditioner in 1931.

For the COMPLETE story, go to http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20111015/GPG04/110150532/Warren-Gerds-column-Meyer-Theatre-helped-galvanize-arts-Green-Bay

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