The Madison Theatre opened in 1912 originally as a single screen theatre. Hoyts Theatres (the Australian based chain) purchased the theatre from its local owner-operator. They twinned the theatre in 1977. At some point in the buildings history, it served as a meeting hall and gymnasium as well. Beneath the sloped wooden floor (painted in Brazilian green) is a basketball court. Upon entering the theatre, the processional is sloped rising to its high point at the concession stand and ancillary box office.
The lobby is T-shaped with the concession stand and passageway to the restrooms and cafe (added upon renovation) comprising the top bar of the T. When the theatre was divided the screens were placed in front of the stage with stage lights and rigging.
Hoyts closed the theatre as a mainstream Hollywood theatre on April 30, 1998. The current owner, Arnold Gorlick, signed the lease in January 1999 and with the devoted work of Largo Construction Co. of greater Philadelphia (owned and operated by Tony Cimino). The theatre re-opened as the Madison Art Cinemas on May 21, 1999.
The colors of the Madison Art Cinemas are distinctive. The basic color scheme is aquamarine, antique gold and a kind of Chinese type red that Sherwin Williams called Ming Red. The shading of the walls and celing in the processional begin with lighter shades ultimately darkening in 7 gradual steps. The left wall starts with a slightly burnt yellow and darken in 7 steps to a cross between terracotta and pumpkin. The left wall has 7 backlit poster frames ascending in proportion to the slope of the floor. Each poster frame is framed by a different color with white sprocket holes painted in the border to give the appearance that each poster is a single film frame. The right wall starts with a natural flagstone and then changes abruptly to a brick wall painted in pumpkin.
The brick wall starts a gallery that extends around the corners into the corridors on the opposite and both sides of the concession stand. Turning right brings one to a small 5-bistro table cafe that seats 15. The cafe walls are decorated with copies of true antique posters that have been torn and placed randomly to give the impression that there were years of pasting, removing and mounting new posters. The posters were then covered with a very transparent orange wash continuing the color scheme while permitting one to view the momentos clearly. The walls opposite the concession stand continue with the pumpkin-terracotta. The walls behind the concession stand are a mustard color. The ceiling is aquamarine starting with a lighter shade at the door concluding with its darkest shade in the interior lobby and auditoria.
The concession stand has a black veneer with metallic speckles. The accent panels are a mustard color with many abstract color accents. The concession stand boasts a beautiful tomato-red espresso machine. The menu board above continues the red theme. The concession offers a few unusual items, not the least of which are Italian coffees and beverages that is imported from Italy (as is the espresso machine) and each espresso, cappuccino, macchiato is ground, packed and brewed to order. The theatre offers baked goods which include locally baked oversized biscotti and cookies. The theatre offers more baked goods and bagels on many Sundays as part of its Key Sunday morning cinema club.
Each autditorium has a large screen with 12 channels of Dolby Digital sound powered by QSC amplifiers through the best quality JBL speakers. The auditoria have columns which rise from the outside walls and form supports at intervals which span the entire width of the theatre building. The celing and supports are coved with bead board. Each pilaster (column) and cross support is painted in aquamarine. The rest of the ceiling which is recessed above the supports is painted in flat black. The common wall between each theatre has faux columns which parallel the pilasters and continue the sight line to obtain psychological symmetry. Each column as an antique looking boxed sconce with a patina. The drapery is tightly pleated and is antique gold. The wooden border that divides drapery from the lower painted red wall is aquamarine. The high seat backs are red vinyl with red and gold satiny upholstery. The seat pans are black and the side panels that are visible are aquamarine. Each theatre has one aisle approximately centered with the seating rows divided into two sections of 6 and 8 seats across. There are amber Tivoli lights in the aisles.
The Madison Art Cinemas provides a higly personalized movie-going experience. The Madison Art Cinemas plays first-run independent art and upscale foreign and domestic films. It is used as a center for community activity with many local organizations using the theatre for fundraisers and community events. It is part of the national Key Sunday Cinema Club and has many special events and programs as well.