Milwaukee Film, the organizer of the city's annual film festival, has entered into a 31-year lease to operate the Oriental Theatre and announced plans to make upgrades to the historic facility.
The nonprofit organization is fundraising $10 million to revitalize the 1927 theater with the goal of “creating a superior customer experience and making the Oriental Theatre a state of the art historic cinema,” according to a Milwaukee Film news release.
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The Oriental Theatre, located on Milwaukee's east side, opened in 1927. (Photo: Pamela Strohl)[/caption]
The theater, located on Milwaukee’s East Side at 2230 N. Farwell Ave., is currently operated by Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres.
When it assumes operation of the theater in July 2018, Milwaukee Film plans to run a year-round, nonprofit cinema.
“The Oriental Theatre is a treasure. I have visited hundreds of cinemas worldwide and the Oriental Theatre is my favorite. It is magical to see 1,000 of our members fill the main house at our monthly screenings,” said Jonathan Jackson, artistic and executive director of Milwaukee Film. “Our nine-year-old organization securing long-term control of this cinema is a momentous occasion. We have cemented our permanence in Milwaukee and intend to greatly expand our cultural, economic, and educational impact on our community.”
The organization has secured $3 million of its $10 million fundraising goal. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who co-founded Milwaukee Film, made a personal contribution of $2 million.
“From day one, every person involved in Milwaukee Film - from staff, to volunteers, to the board, to our dedicated 3,600 members - has been driven by the goal of not simply creating a film festival, but creating one of the best and biggest film festivals in the world,” Abele said. “This announcement brings us closer to that goal. It isn’t the culmination or an end point, it’s the start of the next chapter.”
The Herzfeld Foundation has also committed $1 million to the initiative.
Designs haven’t yet been completed, but the organization is “committed to maintaining the existing aesthetics and character of this iconic Milwaukee building,” according to the release.