By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 23, 2022 at 11:29 AM

In the "wait, what, this hasn't been true for years now?" category: the Oriental Theater, 2230 N. Farwell Ave., was just added to State Register of Historic Places, the Wisconsin Historical Society announced in a press release this week.

The theater, which opened in the summer of 1927 and was designed by Dick and Bauer, has been an un-registered landmark for Milwaukeeans for decades.

The Oriental has recently undergone massive, multi-million-dollar restoration work, thanks to the efforts of Milwaukee Film, which holds the lease for the theater.

According to the release, "The Oriental Theatre has been added to the State Register of Historic Places as a highly intact example of a movie palace, a type that has become increasingly rare within Milwaukee. Compared with a typical movie theater of that period, the movie palace was larger and grander, featuring expansive lobbies, balconies, a stage and an orchestra pit."

Find an in-depth history of the Oriental here.

Another example, albeit one that needs love and a new life, is Dick & Bauer's Tower Theater on North 27th Street. There's also the Modjeska on Mitchell and other, smaller examples that survive (like the Ritz/Villa, the Grand, the Lyric and numerous others).

The only cinemas in as good a shape as the Oriental, however, are the recently remodeled Warner/Grand (now the MSO's Bradley Symphony Center) and the Riverside. Neither of these show films anymore, however. Only the beautifully restored Avalon holds that honor.

The Downer, Rosbud and The Times are older, in good shape and still active, but considerably smaller. (The Pabst wasn't primarily a cinema.)

"The Oriental Theatre was built in 1927, the height of popularity for movie palaces. It is representative of an Exotic Revival movie palace," reads the release. "It was designed to make moviegoers feel as though they were in a unique setting such as an exotic and distant land. The design of the Oriental Theatre incorporates elements of East Indian, Moorish, Islamic and Byzantine architecture to create what architect A. H. Bauer called a 'temple of Oriental art' executed in ornamental plaster and decorative painting."

The Register is the state’s official list of properties determined to be significant to Wisconsin’s heritage and it is administered by the State Historic Preservation Office at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.