Newly renovated Oriental Theatre to reopen in August

The Oriental Theatre's main house

The Oriental Theatre will reopen next month after being closed since the spring of 2020 due to COVID-19.

Milwaukee Film, the theater’s nonprofit owner and operator, has completed a multi-million dollar renovation project during the 16-month closure. The project has included replacing the 94-year-old theater’s seats and carpeting, improving sightlines  and sound quality, and restoring the balcony and ceiling.

The organization gave a sneak peak of the renovation progress last month.

Milwaukee Film announced Monday the Oriental will hold its official reopening on Aug. 20, featuring a screening of Sundance Film Festival winner “CODA.”

“We are so excited to have film fans back in our beloved theatre,” said Jonathan Jackson, chief executive officer of Milwaukee Film. “We’ve been patiently awaiting this day for a long time and cannot wait to once again open our doors for moviegoers to experience the wonder that is the Oriental Theatre. With our restoration work completed during the pandemic, Milwaukee’s historic architectural icon is ready again to transport our community via movie magic like nowhere else in the country.”

Milwaukee Film met its $10 million fundraising goal for the campaign in the spring of 2019. Chris Abele, co-founder of Milwaukee Film and former county executive, provided a lead $2 million donation. Philanthropists Donald and Donna Baumgartner, the Herzfeld Foundation, Marianne and Sheldon Lubar, Allan H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig, and The Yabuki Family Foundation provided additional lead donations.

Milwaukee Film will host several screenings and events at the theater for its Cultures & Communities Festival, which will be held Sept. 6-12. The organization also plans to hold the 2022 Milwaukee Film Festival as an in-person event, following two consecutive virtual festivals.

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Lauren Anderson is an associate editor and covers health care, nonprofits and education for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism.

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