Milwaukee Film raises $10 million for Oriental Theatre restoration

Milwaukee Film raises $10 million for Oriental Theatre restoration

Milwaukee Film raises $10 million for Oriental Theatre restoration

Milwaukee Film announces the organization’s success in surpassing a $10 million capital campaign goal to restore the historic Oriental Theatre and provide the non-profit with its first-ever operating reserve. In total, the campaign has raised $10,030,229. The campaign was initiated in 2017, lending support to the growing organization in securing its place as a world-class film institution.

In May 2017, Milwaukee Film inked a 31-year lease for the Oriental Theatre, taking over operations in July 2018 and beginning a multi-phase renovation project to preserve and improve the 92-year-old palace.

“We are grateful for the enormous amount of support given by the Milwaukee community,” said Jonathan Jackson, CEO and artistic director of Milwaukee Film. “Accomplishing this campaign in such an accelerated timespan speaks not only to the tireless effort of our team, but also to the passion of donors and audiences.”

While the campaign enjoyed support from over 900 contributors, several highly committed philanthropists supported the campaign through generous lead donations. Lead donors include Chris Abele; Donald and Donna Baumgartner; Herzfeld Foundation; the Sheldon and Marianne Lubar Charitable Fund; Allen H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig; and The Yabuki Family Foundation.



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Oriental Theatre, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Oriental Theatre, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Abele made the first contribution to the campaign with a $2 million gift, the largest gift in Milwaukee Film history. A significant pledge from The Yabuki Family Foundation put the campaign over the top of its $10 million goal.

On Opening Night of the 10th Annual Milwaukee Film Festival, longtime festival supporters Allen H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig offered a $1.5 million matching grant to advance fundraising efforts. This coincided with the public Take A Seat campaign, which gives supporters the opportunity to sponsor a seat at the Oriental Theatre and leave their mark on the cinema.

“I’m humbled at the investment so many people have made in our organization,” Jackson added. “We’ve always had an ambitious vision for what Milwaukee Film can become, and we’ve made incredible strides in meeting some pretty big goals. The commitment of all of our supporters, and particularly the generosity of our lead donors in this campaign, shows me we can dream even bigger and do more within our community.”

Campaign donations will contribute to ongoing restoration efforts at the Oriental Theatre and provide financial stability as Milwaukee Film continues to expand the organization’s cultural reach, preserving its place in the community for years to come.

Both hi-res and web-friendly photos can be downloaded here:


About Milwaukee Film

Milwaukee Film is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to entertaining, educating, and engaging our community through cinematic experiences, with a vision to make Milwaukee a center for film culture. Milwaukee Film operates the magnificent Oriental Theatre, a historic cinema palace committed to high-quality and accessible film and education programming. The 11th annual Milwaukee Film Festival will take place Oct. 17-31, 2019. For more information or to become a member, visit

Facebook: | Twitter: @mkefilm | Instagram: @mkefilm

About the Milwaukee Film Board of Directors

Milwaukee Film’s independent board is made up of the following members: Chris Abele (Past Board Chair); John P. Bania; Donna Baumgartner; Elizabeth Brenner; Héctor Colón; Karen Ellenbecker; Jeff Fitzsimmons; Alexander P. Fraser (Immediate Past Board Chair); Bill Haberman (Past Board Chair); Carmen Haberman; Susan Haise; Katie Heil; Patti Keating Kahn (Board Chair); Tracey L. Klein (Past Board Chair); Michael G. Klein; Michael J. Koss Jr.; Alexander Lasry; Steve Laughlin (Past Board Chair); Emilia Layden; Michael R. Lovell; Joan Lubar; Marianne Lubar; Steve Mech; Mark Mone; Susan Mikulay; Kenneth W. Muth; Bob Pothier; John Ridley; Joseph A. Rock; Ramona Rogers-Windsor; Lacey Sadoff; Dave Stamm; Julia Taylor; John Utz; Kimberly Walker; Emeritus members: Tom Barrett; Jacqueline Strayer

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

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