Al Ringling Theatre
The Al. Ringling Theatre is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.
We offer historic tours for groups by appointment anytime, featuring the Grand Barton theater organ. Tours are $5 per person.
The Al. Ringling Theatre is a treasure of rare quality. Magnificent and richly designed in the style of grand French opera houses, the Theatre is a masterpiece of European architecture. Fine plasterwork, tasseled draperies, intricate ceiling frescos and decorative lighting create an atmosphere steeped in the artistic pleasures both exuberant and serene.
Step back from a timeless setting of quiet, red-carpeted hallways that vibrate with remembered sounds of chattering children at a matinee into a spacious auditorium encircled with golden carved theatre boxes and rich draperies. Hear the tempo changes of the Mighty Barton theatre organ, join the lively applause as the curtain comes down on another hit show. Designed in 1915 by Chicago architects C.W. and George Rapp, the Al. Ringling Theatre has been an ornate fixture in downtown Baraboo for over 80 years. The Theatre is one of the first examples of palatial design applied to the moving picture theatre in this country, and is the earliest structure that can be accurately called a "movie palace," as noted by the Theatre Historical Society of America.
The "Prettiest Playhouse in America" had a distinguished opening night in November 1915, and has been in continuous operation ever since. Ringling Circus brother, Al. Ringling, built the Theatre for approximately $100,000, as a gift to the people of the community he loved. From the start, the Theatre featured live performances from vaudeville to grand opera and starred the likes of Lionel Barrymore and Mary Pickford. First-run films were known to debut in Baraboo before they reached Madison and larger cities.
Plush and gilded, the Theatre is an original. and remains so to this day. The look and feel of the Theatre has not changed in its lifetime; no alterations or remodeling have been done to interfere with its original appearance. Movies still flicker across the big screen, and local theatre and perforinance groups take their turns on the stage every season. Hundreds of thousands of people have experienced the magic of the Al. Ringling Theatre.
In 1976, the Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and through the successful efforts of the community-based Al. Ringling Theatre Friends (ART Friends), the Theatre was purchased from private owners in 1989.
With the Al. Ringling Restoration Fund, ART Friends brings the curtain up on one of the most important performances in the Theatre's history. This fund drive is the chance to preserve the elegant beauty of a historic jewel and to create a unique cultural facility; a vital centerpiece for community events.
Restoration of the Al. Ringling Theatre is a community effort with community benefits. A successful multi-million dollar campaign will support plans to historically preserve and upgrade the Theatre, while the acquisition of adjacent property lays a new foundation to expand programming and operations.