MILWAUKEE – Thursday, October 19 – On November 8, 2023, Milwaukee Film will unveil a project over five years in the making: the installation and restoration of a world-class 1925 Wurlitzer pipe organ. Not just any organ, this spectacular 94-year-old instrument is one of the last few remaining in the world and maintains all of its original period elements and sound.
As announced in 2019, Milwaukee Film secured this Wurlitzer through Jeff Weiler, president of JL Weiler, Inc., a renowned expert in pipe organ restoration. Created to be the voice of silent film, audiences will hear the instrument exactly as it sounded in the 1920s.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, The Board of Directors of Milwaukee Film invite the public to attend a red-carpet fundraiser called “Coming Home Again: A 1925 Wurlitzer Pipe Organ’s Grand Debut” at the historic Oriental Theatre on Wednesday, November 8 from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm.
Co-chairing this special occasion are Kristin and Alec Fraser, Emilia and Chris Layden, Joan Lubar and John Crouch, Susan and Robert Mikulay, Kate and Ken Muth, and Sarah and Joe Rock.
“I can’t tell you how delighted we are that the installation process of our own Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ has reached its final phase, and is ready to be unveiled to the public,” said Susan Mikulay, Milwaukee Film Board Chair. “Milwaukee Film has always been a champion of cinematic history and culture, and the addition of this instrument to our majestic Oriental Theatre reflects its historic and significant importance.”
Truly a one-of-a-kind event, attendees can expect to learn about and celebrate the past, present, and future of film, the Oriental Theatre, the pipe organ, and Milwaukee Film. Weiler will be in attendance to share the story of this organ’s selection and installation for the Oriental Theatre. The event will culminate with a centenary screening of Harold Lloyd’s 1923 silent comedy Safety Last, to be projected from a 35mm print courtesy of the Harold Lloyd Estate. Wurlitzer Extraordinaire organist Ron Rhode will perform a live organ score to the film, showcasing the instrument in all its glory.
“When considering how best to celebrate and unveil the newly installed Wurlitzer at the Oriental Theatre we wanted to honor the overlapping histories of cinema and the theatre organ,” commented Cara Ogburn, Artistic Director of Milwaukee Film. “So Lloyd’s classic, always a crowd-pleaser and celebrating a major anniversary this year, was an easy, natural and perhaps obvious choice. We are thrilled to be working with the Harold Lloyd Estate to present this film in such a reverent way with Ron Rhode’s masterful performance of the Wurlitzer as exactly the right coda to conclude this phase of our historic restoration work at the Oriental Theatre!”
To learn more about this event and purchase tickets, please visit the Mighty Wurlitzer page of the Milwaukee Film website. To inquire about available sponsorship options, please contact Development Director Rachel Vander Weit.
Media who wish to attend an advance behind-the-scenes tour are invited to contact Milwaukee Film’s Director of Communication, Bre Graziano, at email@example.com to RSVP for this exclusive opportunity on Thursday, November 2 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm at the Oriental Theatre.