As you may have heard, the Oriental Theatre is currently closed. But, as you may have also heard, the Oriental Theatre is reopening on August 10, under the leadership of Milwaukee Film. This is a very, very good thing. The organization has signed a 31-year lease on the building and already has a some terrific films and events lined up for August. Beyond that, Milwaukee Film plans to take the Oriental back to its “calendar house” days, programming more special screenings and mini festivals in the side theaters, while keeping the main house for first-run indie fare. But what else will change?
We’ve already taken a peek at some of the renovations of the historic East Side theater, and Milwaukee Film has already teased some of its future plans. But Wednesday night at an event for press and neighbors, those plans became more concrete. Here’s Milwaukee Film’s four-year renovation plan for the Oriental Theatre (subject to change), which we gleaned from a poster we took a picture of while Jeff Bentoff joked about taking a picture of us taking a picture.
PHASE 1 – 2018
• Renovation of first floor restrooms
• Installation of new state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment
PHASE 2 – 2019
• Main house improvements
• Main floor concessions are improvements
PHASE 3 – 2020
• Improved balcony seating
• Mezzanine bar and concessions area added
PHASE 4 – 2021
• Renovation of second floor restrooms
• Restrooms. First floor restrooms are being expanded to include full amenities for everyone, alongside a private family restroom. The upstairs restrooms will also be expanded in order to serve all audience members.
• Projection & Sound. New speakers and audio equipment and state-of-the-art 4K and 2K digital projectors are being installed, along with quality 35mm/70mm projectors in our main house that will bring cleaner, crisper, sound- and eye-popping images to all of our screens.
• Concessions. A new, high-capacity popcorn machine, new beverage fridges, and a new point-of-sale system will enable us to provide delicious refreshments and offer loyalty discounts to Milwaukee Film members every day.
• Ceiling & Interiors. We intend to rehabilitate our gorgeous, ornate ceiling to its original glory, removing unsightly water and plaster damage and providing a fresh coat of paint to any other portions of our auditorium that are chipped or worn.
• Noise Cancellation. Acoustic treatments will better isolate sound in each auditorium while also preventing an echo effect, enabling sound and dialogue to be more clearly understood and prevent audio spillover from adjacent auditoriums.
• Lighting. We intend to retrofit the theater’s lighting to LED to maximize efficiency, while also restoring any lighting fixtures currently out of order.
• Heating & Air Conditioning. We are working to replace the noisy, inconsistent HVAC system with more efficient/less obtrusive alternatives.
• Seating. Especially in the balcony, many of the theater’s seats have seen better days. We will be evaluating and repairing or replacing problematic seating in all auditoriums, providing comfort while also complementing the original decor.