Oriental Theater

2230 N Farwell Ave Milwaukee, WI

The only movie palace built with an Eastern Indian motif

Photos 

Overview Looking North

The theater faces Farwell Avenue, which runs one way from the northeast to the southwest.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in May 2016

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Map 

Description 

The Oriental Landmark Theater hold's the world record for continual showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It has played at midnight on Saturday since January 1978.

The Oriental Theater features 2 minaret towers, 3 stained glass chandeliers, 6 large Buddhas, 8 porcelain lions, and hundreds of elephants. There was a 1928 3-Manual, 28 rank, Kimball Theater Organ in the Oriental, originally in a different theater. The organ was owned and maintained by the Kimball Theater Organ Society, which has since transferred ownership to a new owner. The organ was removed in April 2018 and its future is uncertain. The organ was played in concert each Saturday before the 7:00 PM film showing and the weekly concert was quite popular with patrons.

Considered a local landmark, the theater was considered by some to be ineligible for inclusion on the NRHP because it was divided into three screens in 1978. The division was accomplished very carefully with a minimum of damage and matches the original decor. The theater has the potential to be restored to its original configuration.

Update August 2018: The lease ran out in June 2018 and the former tenant of the Oriental, Landmark Theaters, is no longer involved. The new tenant, with a very long-term lease, is Milwaukee Film, the organization that runs the Milwaukee Film Festival.

The lease with Milwaukee Film took effect July 1, with a $10 million plan to revitalize the three-screen theater. Plans include upgrading projection equipment to include both digital and film projection, modernization of the restrooms, expansion of concessions and updating balcony seating. Plans for scheduling will be finalized on completion of the 10th Annual Milwaukee Film Festival in the fall of 2018. The future of the RHPS is unclear at this time.

Jonathan Jackson, Milwaukee Film's chief executive officer and artistic director, told me that application to the NPS has been made to include the theater on the NRHP and the application is currently under evaluation.

Update Log 

  • August 4, 2018: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated with new information about the theater renovation and added photos.
  • May 22, 2016: Added by J.R. Manning

Sources 

  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • Cinema Treasures - Cinema Treasures' web page for the Oriental Landmark Theater