<< Go Back up to Region ‘Los Angeles: Downtown’

Follow Mike Hume’s Historic Theatre Photography: Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Instagram Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Facebook Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Twitter

Orpheum Theatre

Orpheum Theatre

Architect: G. Albert Lansburgh

First Opened: 15th February 1926 (95 years ago)

Reopening after major renovation: 20th October 2001

Website: www.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.

Proscenium and Boxes
Proscenium and Boxes

The elaborately-detailed proscenium 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 floor. The ceiling plasterwork is elaborate and is lit by hidden cove lighting. A pair of over-sized chandeliers hang from central points in the ceiling. The balcony cross-aisle handrail still bears a scar from when one of the chandeliers hit the handrail when being lowered for cleaning/relamping. The lobby features marble throughout and wows audiences with its opulence and gallery views.

Auditorium Boxes
Auditorium Boxes

A 3-manual, 14-rank Wurlitzer 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. 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. It may be the only theatre in North America to have done so.

In 1927 the Orpheum circuit (generally West Coast) merged with the Keith-Albee circuit (generally 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.


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 was closed. It re-opened in 1933 with wider programming, re-introducing vaudeville, and maintained a solid calendar until 1947. Throughout the 1950s and beyond the Orpheum reacted to changes in popular live entertainment, and in addition to screening movies it hosted vaudeville, comedy, theatre and music concerts of all varieties.

Theatre Marquee
Theatre Marquee

The current marquee dates from 1941 when RKO updated the original late 1920s version.

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 managers realizing there is an audience on Broadway. Original features were retained and of particular note are the theatre’s annunciators: small windows positioned at either side of the Proscenium Arch containing cards indicating the current performing act. Very few vaudeville theatres have retained their annunciators, might the Orpheum be the only such example on the west coast of the US?

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



Music Videos


Award Shows

Video from our YouTube channel:

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.

Further Reading



Technical Information

Flying System
System Type
Single Purchase Counterweight operated from Stage Left at Stage level
Batten Length
Fly Floor
Stage Right only
Grid Height
60ft 10in
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
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
Proscenium Height
28ft 6in
Proscenium Width
Stage Depth
29ft from setting line to rear wall
Stage Width
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
Auditorium: Orchestra
Auditorium: Balcony
Auditorium: Boxes
Auditorium: Closeups
Orpheum Club
Other Public Areas
Events at The Orpheum

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.

Follow Mike Hume’s Historic Theatre Photography: Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Instagram Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Facebook Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Twitter