In Movies & TV

The Oriental will remain closed until autumn as phase three of renovations proceeds.

The Oriental will remain closed this summer as renovations resume

On Tuesday morning, Milwaukee Film announced that The Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave., will remain closed until the autumn, due to the coronavirus outbreak, but that it will use the time to make the next leap forward in its ongoing work to renovate and restore the 1927 movie palace.

This summer, work will be undertaken to replace the seats and carpeting in the east house and on the ground floor of the main house, restore plaster on the ceiling and walls, improve sightlines and sound, and prepare for the future installation of the 1925 Wurlitzer theater organ Milwaukee Film has secured for the theater.

Phase two of the renovations, which you can read about here, were done in 2019. The work was begun in 2018, soon after Milwaukee Film acquired the long-term lease on the theater.

"Thanks to the generosity of more than 900 contributors, Milwaukee Film has donor-designated funds for restoring the Oriental Theatre," said Jonathan Jackson, CEO and artistic director for Milwaukee Film, on Tuesday. "By accepting those funds and by signing a decades-long lease to operate the theater, we took on the role of stewards of this historic cinema palace.

"Our operations have been highly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, which has created significant uncertainty over when we'll be able to safely open our doors again to large crowds. We are, however, able to safely embark on several long-planned restoration projects that, if not done now, would require future shutdown of the cinema."

Milwaukee Film met its fundraising goal for the Oriental Theatre capital campaign in spring 2019, thanks to lead donations from Chris Abele, co-founder of Milwaukee Film; Donald and Donna Baumgartner; the Herzfeld Foundation; the Sheldon and Marianne Lubar Charitable Fund; Allan H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig; and The Yabuki Family Foundation.

Milwaukee Film's planned late-night, "rowdy" screenings of "Cats" – originally slated for March but push to August – have been canceled. Customers who purchased tickets in advance will receive an email with refund options.


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