The Oriental Theatre, Milwaukee’s 94-year-old movie palace, is getting ready for its post-pandemic closeup.
Milwaukee Film, a non-profit organization that operates the Milwaukee Film Festival along with Oriental, 2230 N. The East Side Theater at Farwell Avenue is completing its fourth phase of renovation.
Work includes restoring the theater’s spacious balcony, restoring the main amphitheater’s roof, and replacing cove lights in the venue.
Improvements to seating, handrails and lighting, as well as adding a listening loop to the main auditorium, will follow before the theater reopens in August – 17 months after being closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic .
A few weeks after Oriental closed in March 2020, Milwaukee Film accelerated its multimillion-dollar renovation plans for the theater, replacing seats and carpets, improving sight and sound quality, and improving the air infiltration system.
The main, Buddha-lined auditorium, which seats about 500 people, is basically done; That portion of the project alone cost $1.2 million, according to Milwaukee Film.
Work on the 420-seat balcony is still in progress, as is the 1925 Wurlitzer Theater Organ installation. The final phase of the renovation will include further updates to the lobby; The concession stand of the theater has already been expanded and upgraded.
The Oriental was the first Milwaukee movie theater to close its doors due to the pandemic, but it wasn’t the last.
Eventually, all 20 area theaters closed; Most began reopening last fall. As of June 18, five remain closed: Showtime Cinemas of the Oriental, Times Cinema, Rosebud Cinema, Fox-Bay Cinema Grill and Marcus Theatre. Showtime is scheduled to reopen on June 25.
When Milwaukee Film announced in 2017 that it was piloting Oriental, the nonprofit vowed to give the theater a major upgrade.
When it took over in 2018, Milwaukee Film closed the theater for six weeks for reconstruction; The following year, it closed one of its two smaller screens for extensive refurbishment. The pandemic shutdown allowed the rest of Oriental’s plans to set in motion.
Contact Chris Foran at email@example.com. follow him on twitter @cforan12.
related:Films in Milwaukee: Documentaries with Edgar Wright and Rita Moreno; Plus Kevin Hart, James Baldwin, and Disney’s ‘Luca’ on Streaming