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Milwaukee Film plans for virtual festivals, renovations at Oriental Theatre

Milwaukee Film plans for virtual festivals, renovations at Oriental Theatre

You can read the full article from Milwaukee Business Journal here

Milwaukee Film festival will add new technology to its virtual film festivals while continuing ahead on renovations to the Oriental Theatre on Milwaukee's east side.

Milwaukee Film expanded the second annual Minority Health Film Festival to 15 days from Sept. 10-24. It was previously just a four-day festival.

"We feel that it’s totally appropriate during this time of Covid, which is terribly affecting communities of color even more significantly than white communities in addition with the violence and racial tension that’s been happening," Milwaukee Film chief marketing and development officer Sebastian Mei said.

The Minority Health Film Festival will include a drive-in movie theater event at the former Bradley Center lot. The film "Little" will begin at 5 p.m. and "Good Boys" at 9 p.m. Cost is $10 per vehicle, per screening.

The 12th annual Milwaukee Film Festival, presented by Associated Bank, will run virtually during its previously announced dates of Oct. 15-29.

Milwaukee Film added new technological capabilities for the festivals with the use of CineSend, a platform used by other film festivals to transition to a virtual event. Attendees can access the films with platforms such as Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku.

"Cinesend is a platform that allows us to basically upload all our films onto the same platform so that we have a really consistent and beautiful user experience across the board," Mei said. "What you can do is download the Milwaukee Film app directly on to your TV. Then you can consume all of the festival content that you would normally watch in the theater. You can consume it right on your television. This is a huge improvement over what we were doing before."

Milwaukee Film also has forged ahead on its construction at the Oriental Theatre, at 2230 N. Farwell Ave. Mei said construction schedules are still on target with the expectation to finish at the end of October but that does not mean the theater will reopen right away.

"We really have to keep our eyes on local, state health conditions and public health warnings to see what we are able to do," Mei said.

Along with local and state restrictions, Mei said the Oriental Theatre may not open if there is not good content available. It wouldn't make sense from both a health perspective and a financial perspective, he said.

"We’re hopeful that we can open our doors at the end of October, early November, but it’s going to take a few more months for us to be sure of what are options are," Mei said.

Milwaukee Film will also monitor how other theater locations in southeastern Wisconsin and across the country are performing.

"There’s a lot of moving parts and we’re just trying to figure everything out to see what our best options are as we get into the fall season," Mei said. "We’re on track with our construction plans. We are feeling less pessimistic about our fundraising opportunities than we were even two or three months ago."

Mei said that with the virtual programming, feedback from Milwaukee Film's Sofa Cinema and the potential for a reopening of the Oriental Theatre in 2020, Milwaukee Film has more reasons to be positive now than in April or May.

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