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Orpheum Theatre

Orpheum Theatre

Architect: G. Albert Lansburgh

First Opened: 15th February 1926 (98 years ago)

Reopening after major renovation: 20th October 2001

Website: laorpheum.com Open website in new window

Telephone: (877) 677-4386 Call (877) 677-4386

Address: 842 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014 Show address in Google Maps (new window)


The Orpheum Theatre, named for the Greek mythological figure Orpheus, opened in 1926 as the fourth and final Los Angeles venue for the Orpheum circuit, and the second Orpheum Theatre to be built on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles. The theatre is home to a 1928 Mighty Wurlitzer organ which is still in service today. Architect G. Albert Lansburgh designed the theatre and it remains one of his most elaborate examples.

Featured Photos

Detailed Information

Opened mid-February 1926, the Orpheum originally showcased both vaudeville and movies. The theatre was designed in a French Baroque style by Lansburgh, who also designed the interior of the Shrine Auditorium, the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, and The Wiltern in Koreatown.

Much of the inspiration for the interior design of the theatre was informed by King Francis I of France’s (the “salamander king”) patronage of the Arts. The crowned salamander, representative of King Francis, is used throughout the decoration of the theatre.

Proscenium and Boxes
Proscenium and Boxes

The elaborately-detailed proscenium arch and gilded sounding board gives way to a series of stepped opera boxes on each side, with the organ chambers located above. The boxes are seemingly supported from below on fanned supports rising from the orchestra (main seating) floor.

The ceiling plasterwork is detailed and elaborate, with the whole lit from the sides by hidden cove lighting which was probably originally multi-colored.

A pair of over-sized chandeliers hang from symmetrically central points in the ceiling. The chandeliers feature slightly mismatched blue glass, a result of the House Right chandelier being non-original.

Auditorium Chandelier
Auditorium Chandelier

At an early stage of the theatre’s career the chandeliers were lowered for maintenance (probably lamp replacement), and the morning after they had been raised back up to the ceiling the House Right chandelier was found to have fallen and crashed down onto the balcony cross-aisle handrail, likely due to insecure tie-off after having been winched up to the ceiling the previous night. The chandelier was replaced with the only signs of the incident being the mismatched blue glass in the chandeliers and the balcony cross-aisle handrail which still bears a scar from the chandelier’s rapid and unplanned descent.

The lobby features marble throughout and wows audiences with its opulence and gallery views. A plaster relief of a salamander is present in addition to non-original but still notable chandeliers featuring gold goddesses. The newel post at the bottom of the staircases leading up to the balcony feature curled-up salamanders.

Auditorium Boxes
Auditorium Boxes

A 3-manual, 14-rank Wurlitzer pipe organ (Style 240 Special, Opus 1821) was installed in early 1928, replacing an earlier organ. The Wurlitzer is still in-situ and used for special screenings. It is one of very few theatre pipe organs still installed in its original home.

Also of note are the theatre’s annunciators: small windows positioned at either side of the proscenium arch containing a series of moving cards indicating the current performing act. Most vaudeville theatres have removed or re-purposed these areas for loudspeakers, however the Orpheum has retained them and currently has TV screens performing the same job as the mechanical annunciators once did.

In 1927 the Orpheum vaudeville circuit (generally covering the U.S. West Coast) merged with the Keith-Albee circuit (generally covering the U.S. East Coast), forming KAO (Keith-Albee-Orpheum). In late 1928 KAO was merged into a new entity called RKO, the ‘R’ standing for Radio Corporation of America.

Annunciator
Annunciator

By the start of the 1930s the Orpheum changed its main programming from vaudeville to movies, and by 1932 business was so bad that the theatre closed. It re-opened in 1933 with broader programming, re-introducing vaudeville, and maintained a solid calendar until 1947.

Throughout the 1950s and beyond the Orpheum tracked changes in popular live entertainment, and in addition to screening movies it hosted vaudeville, comedy, theatre, and music concerts of all varieties.

Marquee
Marquee

The current marquee dates from 1941 when RKO updated the original late 1920s marquee. This was in line with many other theatres where marquees were redesigned to be more noticeable to people driving past the theatre in automobiles.

The Needleman family has owned the building since 1964, and in 2001 a major refurbishment was undertaken such that the Orpheum is now arguably the best-preserved theatre of its era in Los Angeles. Its refurbishment has led to other theatre managers realizing there is an audience on Broadway and from the wider Los Angeles area, in addition to the Orpheum being one of the most filmed theatres in the United States.

The Orpheum has hosted some of the most famous names in show business including burlesque queen Sally Rand, the Marx Brothers, Judy Garland, Will Rogers, plus jazz greats Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington.

Movie, TV & Music Video Appearances

Movies

Television

Music Videos

Documentary

Award Shows

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Listed/Landmark Building Status

How do I visit the Orpheum Theatre?

The Orpheum does not offer its own tours however below are some options for potentially seeing a bit more of the theatre than by simply attending one of the many and varied commercial events it hosts:

Information correct as of March 2017.


Upcoming Special Events

Celeste Barber (2nd May 2024, 7pm)

Celeste Barber

Part of Netflix is a Joke Fest Link opens in new window, running 2nd to 12th May 2024 in Los Angeles.

Celeste is an actress, writer, comedian and internet sensation.

Hailed as the “Australian Queen of Comedy”, Celeste’s original celebrity parody Instagram account has attracted over 9.5 million followers including Reese Witherspoon, Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, Cindy Crawford and Tom Ford, whom she collaborated with in 2018 on his Boys and Girls beauty campaign. Celeste won the ‘Funniest Lady on Instagram’ Award 2017 on WhoHaha.com; a digital platform co-founded by actor, director, producer, Elizabeth Banks which showcases women in comedy around the world. In 2019 she was included in Variety Magazine’s prestigious ‘Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch’ Awards.

2nd May at 7pm.

Click here to go to the event website. Link opens in new window




Last Remaining Seats (1st June 2024, 2pm)

Last Remaining Seats

Last Remaining Seats (LRS), the L.A. Conservancy’s flagship film series, is back on Broadway this June!

This summer, three of downtown Los Angeles’s most stunning historic theatres will be on full display for attendees of Last Remaining Seats.

Beginning Saturday, June 1, the opulent 1926 Orpheum Theatre will host the opening matinee and evening performance. Then, on Saturday, June 8, the spectacular Los Angeles Theatre will open its doors to wow Angelenos for another day of classic films in a historic setting. And finally, on Saturday, June 8, the L.A. Conservancy is excited to welcome you into the beautiful Palace Theatre for the close of LRS! This jewel box of a venue opened in 1911, making it one of the oldest theatres in Los Angeles and the oldest of the 12 historic theaters that line Broadway. It has been seven years since the Conservancy last showed a film at the Palace for LRS, and we are excited to return!

All three theatres must be seen to be believed, so whether you’re new to Last Remaining Seats or a long-time fan, mark your calendars! The LRS lineup will be announced on the same day that tickets go on sale for Conservancy members, on April 10. General public can purchase tickets beginning April 17. Tickets are $20 for members, $25 for general public.

Click here to go to the event website. Link opens in new window

Further Reading

Online

Books

Technical Information

Flying System
System Type
Single Purchase Counterweight operated from Stage Left at Stage level
Batten Length
52ft
Fly Floor
Stage Right only
Grid Height
60ft 10in
Linesets
20 @ 4-line linesets (750lbs load per lineset)
General Information
Seating Capacity
1,976 (Orchestra 1,019; Loge 146; Balcony 781; Boxes 30)
Orchestra Pit
Capacity
16 musicians
Organ Lift
10ft by 8ft scissor lift, located at center of Orchestra Pit (rated for up to 4,000lbs)
Stage Dimensions
Apron Depth
3ft
Proscenium Height
28ft 6in
Proscenium Width
50ft
Stage Depth
29ft from setting line to rear wall
Stage Width
81ft
Historic Photos & Documents
Files displayed in this section may be subject to copyright; refer to our Copyright Fair Use Statement regarding our use of copyrighted media.

Photos of the Orpheum Theatre

Jump to Photo Section:

  1. Auditorium: Orchestra
  2. Auditorium: Balcony
  3. Auditorium: Boxes
  4. Auditorium: Closeups
  5. Orpheum Club
  6. Other Public Areas
  7. Events at The Orpheum
  8. Exterior
  9. Backstage
  10. Green Room
Auditorium: Orchestra
Auditorium: Balcony
Auditorium: Boxes
Auditorium: Closeups
Orpheum Club
Other Public Areas
Events at The Orpheum
Exterior
Backstage

Backstage at the Orpheum Theatre is better-known than most theatres having featured extensively on television and in the movies. The stage’s rear wall features colored tiling which is easy to spot in most location shoots, and is often made a feature of in modern reality TV shows. The original tiling was expanded upon for the TV movie Gypsy (1993) Link opens in new window starring Bette Midler, with large tile-like block colors being painted on the wall above the real tile.

The counterweight flying system, originally by Peter Clark Inc, was reputedly the first counterweight flying system installed in a Downtown Los Angeles theatre. What is not clear is whether the system dates from the opening of the theatre (February 1926). The system was overhauled and upgraded to modern standards around 2001/2. The grid is 60ft 10in above the stage.

Green Room

In early 2023, the Trap Room underneath the Stage was redecorated and turned into a welcoming Green Room.



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