3 Screens. Built in 1927. Operated by Landmark since 1976. The Oriental Theatre, located a mile north of downtown, a mile south of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and 5 blocks west of Lake Michigan, is the heart of Milwaukee's alternative East … show more
3 Screens. Built in 1927. Operated by Landmark since 1976. The Oriental Theatre, located a mile north of downtown, a mile south of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and 5 blocks west of Lake Michigan, is the heart of Milwaukee's alternative Eastside. Every Friday and Saturday before the 7pm show in the main theatre, the lush sounds of the Kimball Theatre Pipe Organ introduce the film, just like the good old days. This pipe organ is the largest of its kind in a theatre in America, and the third largest in the world.
The Oriental is one of Milwaukee's last remaining movie palaces, certainly the most beautiful and ornate one that has shown movies for 75 years solid. When the Oriental opened on July 2, 1927, it featured 2 minaret towers, three marvleous stained glass chandeliers, 6 larger-than-life Buddhas, several hand drawn murals, 8 porcelain lions, dozens of original draperies, and hundreds of elephants. This is how the papers described the Oriental when it opened and this is how it could be described today! The Oriental Theatre was the crown jewel among the 45 theatres in the Saxe Brothers' chain. The motif is not what first comes to mind today as being 'oriental.' Designed by Gustave A. Dick and Alex Bauer, the themes of the decor are East Indian, with no traces of Chinese or Japanese artwork. Milwaukee's Oriental is said to be the only standard movie palace ever built to incorporate East Indian decor.
Miraculously, the Oriental survived as a movie theatre until 1972, when local electricians the Pritchett Brothers purchased the theatre and graciously obliged the request of Parallax Theatres (now Landmark Theatres) to start running the Oriental in 1976. Landmark developed the programming strategy of repertory films; short runs of classic and cult double features, and the Oriental existed as a popular ‘calendar' house for many years until video and cable TV again took away the customers.
Landmark then switched programming strategies to foreign and...