Oriental Theatre Organ: FAQ
A pipe organ? At the Oriental Theatre? … Should I be excited about this?
Absolutely! Like all the great cinema palaces of its era, Milwaukee Film’s Oriental Theatre was meant to have a pipe organ to accompany silent films and serenade movie lovers through the ages. When the previous organ was removed from the theater before Milwaukee Film took over operations, it left an important and beautiful piece missing from this fabulous facility. Adding a pipe organ is a critical part of our restoration efforts.
What’s so special about the organ that’s going to be installed at the Oriental Theatre?
Several things make this instrument extraordinary:
1. It’s a 1925 Wurlitzer theater organ, which was created to be the voice of silent film.
2. It’s 94 years old, but all the elements are unaltered from their factory-original state.
3. Out of thousands of Wurlitzer pipe organs produced in the 1910s-40s, it’s one of maybe a dozen in the world that still maintains its original elements and sound.
4. IT’S PRETTY.
Remind me, what happened with the old organ?
The last organ at the Oriental Theatre, a 1931 Kimball, was removed and re-homed before Milwaukee Film took over operations in 2018. That instrument had been installed in 1991. The original pipe organ that was part of the building when it opened in 1927 was a Barton that had been built in Oshkosh. That organ was removed in 1959.
Where did this new/old organ come from?
The 1925 Wurlitzer obtained by Milwaukee Film began its life at the Paramount Theater in Atlanta, where it remained until the 1950s.
Can you give me just a little hint at what this magnificent pipe organ is going to sound like?
We found a video of a “Mighty Wurlitzer” theater pipe organ in Minnesota, and it’s similar to what is installed at the Oriental Theatre. Take a look/listen.