Photo credit to Ben Wong
Photo credit to Ben Wong
    The city of Milwaukee has a variety of historic landmarks everywhere you look. One of Milwaukee’s most historic buildings today is the Oriental Theatre.

The Oriental Theatre first opened on July 2 1927. It was originally owned by the Sax Brothers who were big chain theater owners at the time. After opening the Oriental, the brothers eventually sold it and it eventually became a part of the Landmark Theatres Organization, which has now been forty years. The theatre provides guests with films outside of mainstream Hollywood such as Miles Ahead starring Don Cheadle and Everybody Wants Some!!.

“We’ve got some really promising films,” said Eric Levin, current manager for the Oriental.

The organ that is located in the Oriental. Photo credit by Ben Wong
The organ that is located in the Oriental (Photo credit by Ben Wong).

Levin says that Landmark as a whole shows foreign and American small released films since 1984. Sometimes, they do run films that are well known to the public. Recently, the theatre ran the movie, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. There are over 1,000 seats in the Oriental.  There is plenty of room for customers who visit the theatre. The theatre also has an organ inside the building which came from the Grand Theatre in downtown Milwaukee.

“It is the largest pipe organ in a movie theatre in the U.S.,” said Levin.

The organ was fully utilized along with a full orchestra to accompany silent films at the time. When movies converted into sound in the late 1920’s, the organ wasn’t used as often. As decades went by, the Oriental has seen many changes to remain historically significant for the city of Milwaukee.

“It is a theatre that Milwaukee has always supported,” said Levin. “People hear about the theatre and they travel distances to come here.”

The Oriental Theatre as it stands today located on N. Farwell Avenue (Photo Credt: Eric Oxendorf).
The Oriental Theatre as it stands today located on N. Farwell Avenue (Photo Credit: Eric Oxendorf).

Levin also says that the theatre is as much of an attraction to people of Milwaukee as the movies they show based on its history and setting. He also points out that people from older and younger generations are all in awe whenever they visit.

“It is the last surviving movie palace that is almost completely original,” said Levin. “It is a throwback to a different time.”

Over the years, the Oriental has gone through some renovations to keep up with the growing technological world we live in now. From adding additional projectors and going into digital projection, the Oriental has done much to remain intact. Despite the renovations, it still has that historical look and feel to its nature.

“We’re offering something that is very different than what you can experience in the city,” said Levin. “It’s such a different experience that people are blown away by it.”

Whenever people think of Milwaukee, they might think of the Art Museum, the Harley Davidson Museum, Lake Michigan or even Discovery World. But others might also come across a theatre named the Oriental that is one of the oldest and historic buildings that this city has to offer to us all.

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