LA CROSSE, Wis. -- The Hollywood Theater in downtown La Crosse has sat empty for nearly 10 years, but Thursday, the theater's new owner took the media inside for a first look at his latest investment.
After getting a peak at what the inside of the theatre looks like now the new owner said he's not even sure what he got himself into, but he said the building has all the potential for being something great.
“Whoever did it, stripped it out, did a really good job," said Phil Addis, the Hollywood Theater’s owner. "There’s literally nothing left behind."
What was once was an icon in La Crosse now sits empty with just clues of its history.
“It was a great theater,” said Addis. “Back then of course, all the lighting worked and the heating system worked and there wasn't water running down the walls, but it was a great theater. It was really a grand theater. When you came, you had the look of an old-time movie house.”
And beneath the hanging cobwebs, crumbling walls and molding ceilings lies Addis's personal memories.
“It was a great place to come as a kid,” said Addis. “[I] Came here with my family, and so yeah, I have very great memories of the Hollywood Theater.”
But heading into the building's main theater to find just about everything gone wasn't exactly what Addis was expecting.
“There were 800 seats on the main floor," said Addis. "Obviously, they were taken out and sold. It is too bad because it could have been saved a lot easier. Now I'm just not sure how much it's going to take to save it.”
Downstairs where the bathrooms used to be, water stains cover the floor and broken art still hangs on the walls.
"At one point there was actually an art deco fireplace here,” said Addis. “You can see the marks where they actually chipped it all off and sold it, but there used to be an art deco fireplace that covered this wall.”
But among all the disappointment there were some pleasant surprises.
“We were surprised that the neon worked, in all honesty,” said Addis. “The Hollywood sign still lights up, the marquee still lights up, the ticket sign lights up, this neon over this arch lights up, which is good. So it’s nice that all that works.”
And while it will take a lot of work to get the Hollywood's bright lights shining again, Addis said it's all worth it.
“You have to make an attempt,” said Addis. “If it turns out we can't do it, we can’t do it, but you have to make the effort. So yes, I still you have to make the effort to try.”
Addis said he wants to restore the building back into a functioning theater, but he's asking the public for some help on what that restoration should look like. He's set up a Hollywood Theater Facebook page for people to share their ideas.
Addis bought the building back in February at a sheriff's sale for just over $15,000. Addis will also have to pay three years' worth of back taxes on the building to the tune of nearly $14,000.