Milwaukee Film exceeds campaign goal for Oriental Theatre restoration

Nonprofit builds its first-ever operating reserve

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:10 pm

Milwaukee Film has surpassed its $10 million capital campaign goal to restore the Oriental Theatre and provide the nonprofit with its first-ever operating reserve.

Oriental Theatre

The campaign has been underway since 2017, when Milwaukee Film entered into a 31-year lease to operate the 92-year-old Oriental Theatre at 2230 N. Farwell Ave. The organization assumed operations of the theater in July 2018.

The campaign drew gifts from 900 contributors and brought in a total of $10.03 million.

Lead donors to the campaign included Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Donald and Donna Baumgartner, the Herzfeld Foundation, the Sheldon and Marianne Lubar Charitable Fund, Allen H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig, and The Yabuki Family Foundation.

Abele made a personal contribution of $2 million to kick off the campaign, the largest gift in Milwaukee Film history. The Seligs offered a $1.5 million matching grant on opening night of the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival. And a “significant pledge” from The Yabuki Family Foundation allowed the campaign to exceed its goal, the organization said.

“We are grateful for the enormous amount of support given by the Milwaukee community,” said Jonathan Jackson, chief executive officer and artistic director of Milwaukee Film. “Accomplishing this campaign in such an accelerated timespan speaks not only to the tireless effort of our team, but also to the passion of donors and audiences.”

The campaign will support the restoration of the Oriental Theatre and provide financial stability for the organization. The first phase of the project, which was completed last year, included adding a women’s bathroom suite to the first floor and replacing project equipment throughout the theater.

Additional renovations, including a full rehabilitation of the theater’s main auditorium, are expected this year.

“We’ve always had an ambitious vision for what Milwaukee Film can become, and we’ve made incredible strides in meeting some pretty big goals,” Jackson said. “The commitment of all of our supporters, and particularly the generosity of our lead donors in this campaign, shows me we can dream even bigger and do more within our community.”

Get our email updates

Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.