2230 N. Farwell Avenue,
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When Saxe Amusements 1,900-seat Oriental Theatre opened in 1927 with Colleen Moore in “Naughty but Nice”, it was among the most exotic and ornate movie palaces to have opened in Milwaukee with its Middle Eastern-meets-Far Eastern decor.
Although the large auditorium was divided into three smaller auditoriums in the late-1980’s, the decor was largely kept intact, miraculously, and the theatre has managed to retain its 1920’s appearance to the present.
It originally opened with a Barton pipe organ, which was replaced in 1959 by a Kimball pipe organ. The Kimball organ, played each Saturday before each 7 p.m. show, and was the largest of its kind remaining in the US. The Oriental Theatre is known for holding the record for a continuous midnight screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, which it has been performing since January, 1978.
In 2017 the ownership of the Kimball organ changed hands and in April 2018 the instrument was removed from the building. In July 2018 the theatre was taken over by Milwaukee Film, and renovations began straight away on July 1, 2018. Seating is now provided for 1,080 seats, with 554 in the orchestra and 526 in the balcony in the main original auditorium and 220 seats in each of the smaller auditoriums. On May 9, 2019 it was announced that a Wurlitzer 3 manual pipe organ, originally installed in the Paramount Theatre from 1925 to the 1950’s will be installed in the Oriental Theatre, with completion expected by the end of 2020.
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