Oriental Theatre

2230 N. Farwell Avenue,
Milwaukee, WI 53202

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Showing 26 - 50 of 55 comments

JimRankin on December 24, 2006 at 2:42 am

Life: Thank You for taking the time to detail all of this. Now I can see the arrows and the image you originally mentioned is the last on your list.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 23, 2006 at 5:44 am

Maybe it is an incompatible browser sort of thing. There should be orange arrows within the pircture frame at top. Clicking on the arrows allows me to move from picture to picture. Here is the whole photo set:


You can also access via the Searle & Associates Projects page, Adaptive Reuse section:


Looks to me like a very tasteful project. Here is how Searle describes it:

Built in 1927, the Oriental Theater is an example of an exotic revival movement that used Arabian, Egyptian, and Far Eastern ornamentation. The corridor between the two new theaters is designed to reinforce the illusionary quality of fantasy and grandeur inherent in the old movie palace. The corridor columns, simplified versions of the originals, are made of faux marble plastic laminate with wood trim. The concern in this remodeling was to preserve the existing theater volume and ornament, while enhancing its quality with the addition of the two theaters.

ERD on December 23, 2006 at 3:53 am

Absolutely a stunning and unique looking theatre. A reminder of an era of great showmanship.

JimRankin on December 22, 2006 at 11:52 pm

Life: is this the photo you intended? It looks toward the stage front, not the two little auditoriums. And “arrows at the top”? I see none.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 22, 2006 at 6:11 pm

Great auditorium photos, showing the two cinemas built under the balcony, can be found here:


Use the arrows at top of photo to navigate.

mp775 on December 19, 2006 at 8:54 am

Thanks for the correction.

JimRankin on December 18, 2006 at 8:00 pm

A small point: the ORIENTAL is not owned by Landmark, but operated by them under a lease. So, the long term welfare of the theatre is more in the hands of its owner (a group of local business investors heretofore specializing in housing), rather than its operator. To be sure, if Landmark should somehow leave the theatre, its future would be more in doubt, since investors buy to increase their investment returns, not out of nostalgia for any property.

mp775 on December 18, 2006 at 9:14 am

The Oriental is definitely well cared for, and there are more than a couple of theater buffs among the staff there. It is, however, owned by Mark “day-and-date” Cuban’s Landmark Theatres…

Newyorkee on November 5, 2006 at 10:28 pm

Those are some very beautiful photos of the Oriental lobbies. A couple of massive multiplexes have opened in New York in the past decade where an attempt was made to recapture the dream palace flavor — one in the Disney-ized 42nd Street, and the Sony near Lincoln Center. Of course, nothing can compare to the real thing. I do hope owners of gems like the Oriental appreciate what they have and keep things at least maintained, if not completely restored.

Broan on November 5, 2006 at 3:36 pm

Russell Phillips Photos:

Upper Lobby

Newyorkee on October 12, 2006 at 1:45 am

I lived on Farwell Avenue across the street from the Oriental as a student at UWM in the early seventies. I remember often taking advantage of the cheap double features they showed then. My first time at the Oriental was a Halloween costume party in 1970 I think. They showed the original Frankenstein film — quite a revelation to see it on a big screen — and the entire audience, most quite stoned and/or tripping out of their minds, howled when Dr. Frankenstein’s father lit up and puffed greedily on his very large carved pipe. Those giant Buddhas with the glowing eyes and jewels were truly amazing, as was the rest of the decor.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 5, 2006 at 6:32 pm

That’s cool. No problem Jim. I haven’t listed an email address on purpose. From time to time I get into it with people who I think are trying to use and abuse the preservation community, like Paul Warshauer. I don’t need messages from guys like that.

JimRankin on May 11, 2006 at 6:11 am

Life: I’m glad to hear about your screening at the AVALON, but since this is the ORIENTAL’S page I don’t feel right talking about another theatre here. I would have privately E-mailed you, but when clicking on your moniker in blue at the bottom of your comment, I am taken to to your Profile page where I should find your E-mail address under CONTACT INFO, but there is nothing there. That can be rectified if you will click on the link PROFILE in the upper right corner of any page and, if your cookies are turned on, you will be taken to your own page where you can correct the oversight.

Otherwise, you can click on my name below and thus find the E-mail to contact me.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 10, 2006 at 6:23 pm

Good news Jim. I have always wanted to see a movie at the Oriental & have never gotten around to it. I have been to a screening at Milwaukee’s Avalon. The Avalon was great when I was there in the early 90’s. Hope it will come back to life again.

gin on May 5, 2006 at 4:19 pm


I can’t thank you enough for the information on Alexander Bauer. THe reason I am looking is that I grew up in the house he designed and built for himself in 1929. The house was built in Whitefish Bay in 1929, and the upstairs bathroom is apparently very similar to the one at the Oriental Theater. My mother passed away in december of last year and we are getting ready to sell the house, and I wanted to put as much info together as I could.

I really appreciate you taking the time to respond…and so quickly. Thanks again. gincleary

JimRankin on May 5, 2006 at 5:45 am

“gincleary”: This is a bionote about ALEXANDER HAMILTON BAUER: Bauer formed an architectural practice parternership with Gustav A. Dick (AIA) in 1921 as “Dick & Bauer”. They designed six movie palaces in Milwaukee, as well as many regular commercial buildings, churches, and homes. In 1931 the parternership was incorporated with Dick as president and Bauer (a native Milwaukeean who was graduated from the U. of Wis. at Madison) as treasurer and his wife as vice-president. Dick was born in Milw. in 1872, and died there in 1935 and Bauer continued the firm through 1937. Bauer served as president of the Wis. chapter of the AIA, and belonged to the Wis. State Assn. of architects, as did Dick. He was one of the founders of the First Church of Christ Scientist in the suburb of White Fish Bay, as well as being a member of the Milwaukee Real Estate Board, The City [social] Club, the Milwaukee Art Inst., and various Masonic lodges. He later collaborated with noted Milw. architect Alexander Eschweiller. Bauer died of a cerebral hemmorage in 1946 at the County Emergency Hospital (defunct) which he had helped design. Source: Historic Milw. Inc. booklet of 1992.

“Life’s too short”: I live too far from the ORIENTAL to be able to watch its marquee, but there always seems to be an ad in the paper for movies seven days a week. This is under Landmark management, but the periodic pipe organ concerts have been silenced for over a year now after some major electrical damage to the relay, I’m told.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 4, 2006 at 6:25 pm

Jim: does this place do decent business in your opinion?

gin on May 4, 2006 at 5:22 pm

Is there any information available about the architects of this theater? Especially A Bauer?


JimRankin on January 16, 2006 at 5:17 am

Given the economics of today’s exhibition, it barely makes it as a three screen, so it is highly unlikely that it will be returned to single screen status. In the ORIENTAL’s case, the splitting to three screens involved only the insertion of two screening rooms under the balcony, so the major portions of the theatre have been retained in the front area of seating along with the original stage and virtually all decor. Whether or not they will turn on all those light bulbs not burned out, and let you see all the glory that was original, is another matter. The theatre is a principal showhouse for the Landmark chain, but got a new owner a couple of years ago, and it remains to be seen what he will do with it, since he is an investor, not a showman.

Patsy on January 15, 2006 at 3:41 pm

Is there any chance that this theatre will be returned to a single screen venue?

WPilgreen on August 6, 2005 at 9:16 am

In all the comments to date no one has mentioned that the builder and first owner of the Oriental was Moses Annenberg. The former publisher of Hearst’s Wisconsin News, he and his family had moved to New York shortly before the Oriental’s opening in 1927. According to a recent biography of Moses’s son Walter (founder of TV Guide and Nixon’s ambassador to Britain) the Annenberg family continued to own the Oriental and other Milwaukee real estate until the late forties.

WPilgreen on August 6, 2005 at 9:10 am

In all the comments to date no one has mentioned that the builder and first owner of the Oriental was Moses Annenberg. The former publisher of Hearst’s Wisconsin News, he and his family had moved to New York shortly before the Oriental’s opening in 1927. According to a recent biography of Moses’s son Walter (founder of TV Guide and Nixon’s ambassador to Britain) the Annenberg family continued to own the Oriental and other Milwaukee real estate until the late forties.

JimRankin on September 16, 2004 at 1:23 pm

According to an item in the local paper, the ORIENTAL has been sold to a local business group:
“The Oriental Theatre building is being sold to an investors group that includes condominium and apartment developer Boris Gokhman.” Reportedly, they plan to keep the current operator, Landmark Exhibition, which is owned by celebrity Mark Cuban, as well as the “Twisted Fork” restaurant on the north end of the building as well as the Landmark Lanes bowling alleys in the basement; what becomes of the vacant offices on the second floor is not known. We hope they will have the resources to complete the many repairs that the Pritchett Brothers, the former owners through their RC Electric company, were unable to continue, though we must be grateful for them for keeping the doors open since 1972!

cooler on July 14, 2004 at 10:11 pm


Regarding the break up of the Oriental
into 3 theaters. The remodelling project
spanned the summer of 1988 & IIRC the
grand reopening was held in October of
that year. The original movie “Ben Hur”
was shown just as it had been for the
1st Grand Opening of the theater in

A similar, however smaller in scope,
facelift was completed on the Downer
Theater in May of 1990.