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This is Sounds Like Milwaukee, a WUWM project that celebrates the sounds of our city.

Sounds Like Milwaukee goes to the movies

a movie theater at night with the word 'ORIENTAL' in bright neon green
Lina Tran
The Oriental Theatre on a recent Monday night.

At the Oriental Theatre, you hear all kinds of things. Things that tell you: You’re about to have a good time.

On a recent Monday night, people filed in to catch the next screening of The Holdovers, which opened last weekend. It stars Paul Giamatti as this grumpy prep school teacher. He has to stay on campus over Christmas break to babysit the students who have nowhere to go.

“My boyfriend said one of his friends saw it and that it was really good,” said Ellie Goecken, a graduate student at UW-Milwaukee. She finished a paper for a class earlier that day and decided to treat herself to a movie. “His friends said it’s kind of like a return to Dead Poets Society. I really enjoyed that one, so I’m hoping for a similar vibe.”

a young black man with glasses smiles next to a movie poster
Lina Tran
Malik Riddle, a Milwaukee Film staffer, loves the sound the scanner makes when they greet moviegoers at the front door.

But for people who work at the theater, all this cinema magic can easily become background noise.

Like Malik Riddle, the lead assistant cinema manager at the Oriental Theatre. He said he doesn’t even eat popcorn anymore: It got old. But there is one sound that pulls him out of it. And reminds him how special this place is.

“The sound when we scan someone's ticket is incredibly satisfying,” Riddle said. “I always like it when everything works properly. Once we scan somebody, you get a really happy noise.”

That sound, he continued, “is the signifier that people can go in and they can enjoy their movie or show or whatever they’re here for.”

Riddle has worked with Milwaukee Film since 2016. He said the singing scanner has been greeting moviegoers since the Oriental reopened in 2021, after closing during the pandemic for a major renovation.

“Sometimes when you’re here every day for work, you forget that you work in a really cool place,” Riddle said. “But when people walk in and they start looking around at the entire environment, you get reminded that, ‘Oh, this is a very special place to be.’”

Process, order, delight — the beep says it all.

Instructions on how to participate in Sounds Like Milwaukee are here.

Lina is a WUWM news reporter.
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