Visitors will be able to walk into the jaw dropping box office and concessions lobbies straight out of 1927.
Designed to feel like a “temple of Oriental art”, the Oriental Theatre was conceived of by the Milwaukee architecture firm, Dick & Bauer, and constructed by Saxe Amusement Enterprises in 1927. With design elements borrowed from Indian, Moorish, Islamic and Byzantine architectural styles, the Oriental Theatre has an eccentric, East Indian-inspired aesthetic!
On July 2, 1927, the Oriental Theatre opened its doors to Milwaukeeans. The theater was an immediate success, drawing praise from filmgoers, architects, journalists, industry insiders, and, eventually, cinema and media historians.
In 1972, the Oriental Theatre was sold to a trio of Milwaukee brothers, the Pritchetts, who initially considered razing the building and constructing a general store. After seeing the stunning interiors and ornate decoration, the brothers came to see the theater in all its architectural and aesthetic glory. The Pritchetts became stewards of the building and proponents of its cultural and decorative significance. During the 1970s, they revitalized the building, replaced the roof, and added new entertainment offerings, such as concerts, live performances, and, starting in 1978, midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
At the tail end of the 1980s, the Pritchetts renovated the theater and built two additional auditoriums on either side of the main theater, beneath its balcony.
Since 2009, the Oriental has been the anchor theater of the Milwaukee Film Festival, a 15-day fest that screens more than 300 films each year. Starting in July 2018, Milwaukee Film—the local nonprofit that runs the festival and offers year-round film education and programming—has taken over operations at the Oriental Theatre via a 31-year lease.
MKE Film is in the early stages of a cinema-rehabilitation project to help fund the extensive improvements the theater is dire need of, including structural renovations, facility modernization, and sound and projection system updates. By restoring one of the nation’s finest historical cinemas, MKE Film hopes to secure a bright future for the theater, advance the local film industry, and become a permanent fixture in global cinema culture—all while continuing to screen great films and spark important conversations in the community.
Visitors will be able to walk into the jaw dropping box office and concessions lobbies straight out of 1927. Tickets for films and concessions will be available for purchase. Access to the auditoriums is subject to availability.
2230 N Farwell Ave
12 pm - 5 pm
12 pm - 5 pm
1st floor only