Milwaukee Film announces 31-year lease of Oriental Theatre

Freeman Staff

June 20, 2017

MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee Film has announced the acquisition of a 31-year lease to operate the Oriental Theatre beginning July 1, 2018. This lease ensures that the Milwaukee Film Festival, presented by Associated Bank, will be a part of the community for years to come.

"The Oriental Theatre is a treasure," said Jonathan Jackson, artistic and executive director of the nonprofit Milwaukee Film. "I have visited hundreds of cinemas worldwide and the Oriental Theatre is my favorite. It is magical to see 1,000 of our members fill the main house at our monthly screenings."

Opened in 1927 as a "movie palace," the Oriental Theatre is not only a local landmark, but has also been recognized nationally as a top 10 movie theater by Entertainment Weekly and USA Today. Milwaukee Film seeks to revitalize the space through investments in the infrastructure and upgrades to the projection and sound. While designs have yet to be completed, the organization is committed to maintaining the existing aesthetics and character of this iconic Milwaukee building.

To support the organizations growth and successfully meet the demands of running a film institution, a fundraising initiative has already begun. So far, $3 million of a $10 million goal has been raised, with Chris Abele, Milwaukee County executive and Milwaukee Film co-founder, making a personal contribution of $2 million.

In addition, Milwaukee Film co-founders the Herzfeld Foundation have committed $1 million to the initiative.

The Milwaukee Film Festival, in just eight festivals, is one of the largest festivals of its kind in the country. It ranks in the top 10 among its peers for number of films shown, budget size and number of attendees. There are fewer than 10 organizations in the country that operate multiple year-round film screens and present a major film festival.

To support Milwaukee Films expansion, you can join the nonprofits membership program by visiting The 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival will be held Sept. 28 Oct. 12. Discounted passes and ticket 6-packs are available online now at