Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Milwaukee Movie Theaters Could Be Forever Changed After Coronavirus

The Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee closed for business just before Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers' safer-at-home order.

Since going to a movie theater currently isn't an option, and may not be for a long time, most of us are turning to streaming services for entertainment. 

The motion picture distribution system was under stress before the coronavirus pandemic, but as services like Netflix grow worldwide, the future of the traditional film industry and movie theaters post-pandemic is uncertain, to say the least. 

Even the Oscars now allow streaming-only films for the 93rd Academy Awards. This is just one sign of change for the film industry, and film contributor Dave Luhrssen thinks this could also impact Milwaukee's film scene.

"Fox Bay in the Milwaukee area comes to mind, the Avalon Theater. Some of these beautiful, historic locations that have been functioning quite well in recent years — I’d say they’re in danger," says Luhrssen.

He says the focus is going to be on keeping historic theaters and existing multiplexes in business. Luhrssen adds that growth in the market is going to come from online.

But demand for in-person movie experiences hasn't disappeared.

"No matter how large of screen you have, no matter how many subscription services you subscribe to ... most of us have a desire to be with other people and share an experience of some kind," says Luhrssen.

Theaters like the Oriental or the Avalon are currently still providing services despite the venues being closed. Milwaukee Film, which owns the Oriental Theatre, has created a sofa cinema experience, and the Avalon is serving to-go meals

Have a question you'd like WUWM to answer? Submit your query below.


Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.
David Luhrssen is arts and entertainment editor of the Shepherd Express, co-founder of the Milwaukee International Film Festival and co-author of A Time of Paradox: America Since 1890. He is the winner of the Pace Setter Award for contributions to Milwaukee's film community from the Milwaukee Independent Film Society. David Luhrssen has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and Milwaukee Area Technical College.