UWM Union Cinema: Rebranded and Reloaded for Fall 2015

The UWM Union Cinema returns with a new name, and continues to bring new, classic, experimental and otherwise off-the-beaten path choices to Milwaukee. Plus: what’s on the marquee around town this week.

Summer’s transition into fall doesn’t just herald a shift from blockbuster movies to prestige pictures and Oscar-contenders, it also means the resumption of classes at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the beginning of a new semester means a new spate of programming for the UWM Union Theatre.

With this new semester comes change, as the Union Theatre has been rebranded as the UWM Union Cinema. What was once a film program largely free to the public now has a nominal fee associated with it (most screenings are now $5, although nearly all remain free for UWM students), but movie buffs should be excited by the membership option being offered. For a yearly fee of $50 ($40 for seniors/campus alumni), you’re granted entrance to every screening during the academic year (excluding only the MKE LGBT Film Festival), offered a free popcorn for every Wednesday screening, and given a couple free passes for guests during the year. Compared to a ticket anywhere else in town, it’s a minor fee.

Any film obsessive who has attended UWM’s screenings can tell you that attendance can often prove sparse, to say the least. That’s a crying shame, as programming has always proven dynamic and eclectic, bringing some of the most under-the-radar and critically-acclaimed cinema to Milwaukee – movies that would otherwise never even sniff a multiplex (the previous semester alone brought Snowpiercer, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Kumiko the Treasure Hunter, amongst other treasures).

One of the pillars of a thriving arts community is a devotion to both independent and repertory cinema, and while Milwaukee has both the Downer and Oriental to its credit, the films they bring to town tend to hew more closely to a mainstream sensibility, proving only infrequently challenging. The Union Cinema is what fills that cineaste void, bringing new, classic, experimental and otherwise off-the-beaten path choices to Milwaukee.

Even the Union Cinema’s welcome back week – still an exercise in catering to incoming students with popular films (see lineup below) – managed to sneak two of the year’s very best pictures, Ex Machina and It Follows, into the schedule. And once you move past this week, you see a truly sterling schedule that could easily pay off the membership fee in its first month alone.

Milwaukee has proven to be a film community that loves documentaries (each MFF proves this), and UWM offers its Documentary Frontiers programming to cater to such interests: Just Eat It looks at the unconscionable waste generated by the North American food industry, Little Hope Was Arson looks at the recent series of church-burnings that plagued East Texas, (T)error is a look at modern counterterrorism methods from the perspective of 63-year-old revolutionary turned government informant, and Because I Was A Painter captures the remarkable story of the thousands of covertly created works of art in Nazi concentration camps.

If you’re more intrigued by repertory or classic cinema, UWM offers Mike Nichols’ incredible Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (in a 35mm print, no less) alongside the words-truly-don’t-do-it-justice-please-go-see-this-absolutely-bonkers-film Roar, the infamous passion project filmed amongst dozens of wild animals on a nature preserve. And for those looking for some of 2015’s most critically acclaimed and intriguing narrative films, UWM brings Roy Andersson’s A Pidgeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, Melanie Laurent’s directorial debut with the coming-of-age drama Breathe, a collection of Sundance 2015’s award-winning short films and the rape culture-challenging psychological thriller Felt. That doesn’t even cover the free Experimental Tuesdays programming UWM continues to offer.

In its first month alone, it’s clear the Union Cinema is continuing its status as an important destination for true film lovers. Pitching in a little more money to their cause seems a small price to pay to ensure the continuation of Milwaukee’s most finely programmed movie-going experience.

Quick Links

Get your first stab at The Milwaukee Film Festival’s program guide this Saturday at Cathedral Square Park

Milwaukee Record is presenting Wet Hot American Summer later this month at the Avalon Theatre

Milwaukee natives Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer (Blood Junkie, Billy Club) successfully raised the necessary funds for their latest, a comedy series called Shangri-L.A.

On the Marquee 

Tuesday, September 1: Get Hard
7 p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema ($5/Free for students)

Wednesday, September 2: Breakfast at Tiffany’s
7 p.m. @ select local Marcus Theatres (Purchase tickets here) 

Wednesday, September 2: It Follows
7 p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema ($5/Free for students) 

Wednesday, September 2: A Walk in the Woods opens nationwide
Check local listings for showtimes/pricing

Wednesday, September 2: The White Cliffs of Dover
7:30 p.m. @ Charles Allis Art Museum ($7/$5/free for seniors/students/museum members)

Thursday, September 3: Office Space
7 p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema ($5/Free for students)

Friday, September 4: The Transporter: Refueled, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine & Meru open locally
Check local listings for showtimes/pricing

Friday, September 4 & Saturday, September 5: The Room w/ Tommy Wiseau LIVE!
Midnight @ The Oriental Theatre (Purchase tickets here)

Saturday, September 5: Pitch Perfect 2 & Furious 7
7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema ($5 each/Free for students)

Saturday, September 5: The NeverEnding Story
Dusk @ the bandshell in Humboldt Park (3000 S. Howell Ave.) *FREE!*

Sunday, September 6: Mad Max: Fury Road & Ex Machina
7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema ($5 each/Free for students)

Sunday, September 6:  Despicable Me 2 & E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial double feature
Dusk @ Veterans Park (1010 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive) FREE

Monday, September 7: The Godfather
7 p.m. @ select local Marcus Theatres (Purchase tickets here)



Tom Fuchs is a Milwaukee-based film writer whose early love for cinema has grown into a happy obsession. He graduated with honors in Film Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has since focused on film criticism. He works closely with the Milwaukee Film Festival and has written reviews and ongoing columns for Milwaukee Magazine since 2012. In his free time, Tom enjoys spending time with his wife and dogs at home (watching movies), taking day trips to Chicago (to see movies), and reading books (about movies). You can follow him on Twitter @tjfuchs or email him at tjfuchs@gmail.com.