Milwaukee in Theater Spotlight

posted by JimRankin on November 10, 2003 at 11:11 am

MILWAUKEE, WI — Events in the past two days have literally put the city of Milwaukee in the theatrical spotlight.

On Thursday last, the first Milwaukee International Film Festival opened at the Oriental Theatre, with hundreds of people being greeted by the huge searchlight brightening the night sky. From Nov. 6th through the 16th, some 10,000 people are expected to enjoy some 100 films by independent filmmakers from three dozen nations as the show moves each day to other local vintage theaters including the Downer, and the Times, as well as the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Cinema. More info is available at

There aren’t many multi-thousand-seat theaters opening these days, but Los Angeles had two in recent weeks: the Kodak and the Disney, but now it is Milwaukee’s time to enhance our national large theaters heritage! With search lights outside the Oriental, the city saw a rare sight, a sight that was repeated the following night at the sparkling new Milwaukee Theatre, where 4100 people attended the Inaugural show by the Michael Feinstein with the Milwaukee Symphony orchestra to welcome this new/old venue to the community.

The radiant new auditorium is exactly that: the 1909 Milwaukee Auditorium transformed from an elliptical, flat floor space with a proscenium, to a new two level theater (plus four boxes) with very sloped floors allowing excellent sight lines for a vast audience. This 42 million dollar remodeling leaves only the ceiling beam and coffer pattern from the old structure, but all else is a welcome improvement to allow conventioneers at the adjoining Arena and Convention Center to have a site for plenary sessions and other stage-specific events.

It is not entirely welcome as a competitor to the other stages in town such as the Performing Arts Center and the Riverside and Pabst theaters, however. While all laud the blend of styles carried out in the cream, mustard, gilt, mauve and burgundy color scheme of the new venue, many question the need for a facility of this size.

But with such as the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes now booked into this facility with its 74-foot wide stage, the future for large touring groups and solo artists such as tenor Josh Groban, the future looks bright. More information is available at

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