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Oriental Theatre

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

2230 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA

Opening Hours

2:00 PM - 10:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Varies

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expert
Colm
Local tour guide
"Despite its busy schedule, the best time to catch a movie at the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee is on a weekday evening when crowds are thinner and the atmosphere is quieter. Also, make sure to explore the intricate details of the East Indian decor, especially the lobby ceiling—many locals say it's the best spot for an imprompt photo session."

What is Oriental Theatre?

Oriental Theatre is a mesmerizing gem nestled in the heart of Milwaukee, renowned not only for its status as a cinema but for its rich, exotic architectural design that transports visitors to a far-off land the moment they step inside. This historic movie palace, located on the East Side of Milwaukee, on North Farwell Avenue, first opened its doors in 1927 and has since been a cultural icon in the city. Its ornate East Indian decor, including larger-than-life Buddhas, intricate murals, and a ceiling that mimics a twinkling starry sky, is something you truly have to see to believe.

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The theatre is so much more than a place to catch the latest flick; it's a beacon of history, and for many of us here, a cornerstone of shared memories—from the excitement of a first date to the community camaraderie felt during the Milwaukee Film Festival. Boasting three screens today, the Oriental Theatre runs a delightful mix of current blockbuster hits, indie films, and classic cinema, catering to a wide range of cinematic tastes.

History of Oriental Theatre

The Oriental Theatre's story starts in the roaring '20s, a time when people were eager for new forms of entertainment and escapism. Opening on July 2, 1927, it was originally built to house vaudeville acts and silent films. The theatre's architects, Gustave A. Dick and Alex Bauer, crafted a space that combined East Indian, Moorish, Islamic, and Byzantine architectural details, a symphony of global influences all under one roof.

Throughout its nearly century-long existence, the theater has seen various changes but has managed to retain its original charm. It survived the shift from silent films to "talkies," underwent numerous ownership changes, and managed to escape the fate that befell many historic cinemas—demolition or complete modern overhaul. In the '70s, it became a cornerstone for Milwaukee's artistic community when it started showcasing independent and avant-garde films, and in the early '90s, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, cementing its status as a cultural treasure.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the theatre continued to adapt, holding film festivals and special events. More recent history saw the Oriental Theatre closing for extensive restoration in 2018, after which it reopened with updated amenities and restored interiors, maintaining the integrity of its historical aesthetics. This significant refurbishment has set the Oriental Theatre up to continue being a vital part of Milwaukee's cultural landscape well into the future.

Why is Oriental Theatre Important?

The importance of Oriental Theatre extends beyond its function as a movie house; it represents a piece of Milwaukee’s identity and a bridge to the city’s past. In an era where multiplex cinemas dominate, it stands out as a monument to the golden age of movie palaces, offering a nostalgic experience that can't be replicated in modern theaters. The theatre provides a direct connection to the lavish entertainment experiences of the 1920s and '30s.

Moreover, the Oriental Theatre is a hub for the arts, playing an influential role in supporting and showcasing independent filmmakers through events like the aforementioned Milwaukee Film Festival. This aspect elevates its stature from a mere historic site to a living, breathing contributor to the cultural enrichment of the community. It's not just a place where history happened—it's a place where history is still being made.

Beyond the films and festivals, Oriental Theatre is important to Milwaukee's architectural landscape. The mixture of styles and intricate designs serve as an example of a global architectural heritage, and for many of us, it is a source of local pride. It’s a testament to the grand vision and craftsmanship of bygone eras and certainly a point of pride for Milwaukeeans who appreciate the value of preserving such a unique slice of history.

Things to Do & See at Oriental Theatre

There’s no shortage of things to do and see at Oriental Theatre. Naturally, catching a movie here is an experience in itself—with the grand decor serving as a stunning prelude to the stories on screen. Whether it's a part of a film festival or just a regular screening, you'll find a diverse lineup catering to various cinematic preferences. Take in the art deco lighting, the sky-like ceiling, and statues that seem to watch over movie-goers.

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But the Oriental Theatre isn't just about the films—it's also about the details. Make sure to arrive a bit early to truly appreciate the intricate craftsmanship of the lobby and auditorium. Notice the elephants standing guard over the entrance, the heavily detailed murals adorning the walls, and the golden glow that seems to permeate every corner. Don’t forget to look down at the exquisite carpets under your feet, as they too tell a story.

For visitors looking to delve deeper, keep an eye out for special tours that reveal the hidden nooks and crannies of the theatre, including areas that are generally not open to the public. These behind-the-scenes glimpses offer an intimate look at this historical edifice. If you’re around during the Milwaukee Film Festival, be sure to partake—it’s a vibrant celebration of film that brings together filmmakers, critics, and cinephiles from around the globe.

Frequently asked questions

Where is the Oriental Theatre located in Milwaukee?

The Oriental Theatre is located in the East Side neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

What kind of events can I see at the Oriental Theatre?

The Oriental Theatre hosts a wide variety of events including independent, foreign, and art films, as well as special film festivals and series.

When was the Oriental Theatre built?

The Oriental Theatre was built in 1927 and is known for its East Indian architectural style and opulent decor.

Is the Oriental Theatre accessible for people with disabilities?

Yes, the Oriental Theatre offers accessibility options for guests with disabilities, but it's recommended to contact them directly for specific accommodations.

How can I purchase tickets for a show at the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee?

Tickets for shows at the Oriental Theatre can be purchased online through their official website, via phone, or at the box office.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

2230 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA

Opening Hours

2:00 PM - 10:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Varies

Find it on google maps