Orpheum Theatre

From Vaudeville to Broadway, Phoenix's Orpheum Theater has been showcasing the changes in art and culture since 1927.

The Orpheum Theatre opened in 1927 when the movie industry took the nation by storm. It was built as a large, expensive, and ornate theater to showcase productions and provide high culture to the valley. The theater was built to house a variety of entertainment, such as, plays, movies, and vaudeville.

Vaudeville was a popular theatrical genre during the Gilded Age in the US (roughly 1865-1918). It was a conglomerate of different themed entertainments, similar to carnival or circus shows and sideshows. Typical performances included comedians, magicians, acrobats, jugglers, musicians, animal trainers, freak shows, dancers, and many more.

Harry Nace, who also owned Phoenix Municipal Stadium, owned the theater until the 1940s when it was purchased by Paramount Pictures and renamed “The Paramount.” They owned it for roughly 20 years and it was then bought in the 1960s and renamed “Palace West.” It became a stop on the Broadway circuit for 10 years until it was leased to the Coronas, who transformed the theater into a Hispanic cultural center with events and movies. The City of Phoenix purchased the theater in 1984 and nominated it to the National Register of Historic Places.

The theater has been through extensive restoration and was successfully re-opened in January of 1997 after being closed for 12 years when the city bought the property.

Images

Exterior Entry
Exterior Entry The beautiful ornate exterior outlines the entryway of the theatre. The exterior is made of stucco facade and has detailed stonework relating to entertainment. There is also stonework of the conquistadors that came in to Arizona through Mexico (citation for fothoph). Photo courtesy Friends of the Orpheum Theatre. Source: http://www.friendsoftheorpheumtheatre.org/photo-tour.html
Audience Chamber
Audience Chamber This view from the upper balcony shows the audience chamber and artwork on the side of the stage. The ceiling can be used for effects by projecting stars or clouds. Photograph courtesy Friends of the Orpheum Theater. Source: Photograph courtesy Friends of the Orpheum Theater. http://www.friendsoftheorpheumtheatre.org/photo-tour_2.html
New Adams Street Lobby
New Adams Street Lobby During the restoration of the Orpheum Theatre, the lobby was expanded to accompany a larger ticket booth. Originally there was a small ticket booth outside of the entrance (citation fotot). Photo courtesy Friends of the Orpheum Theatre. Source: http://www.friendsoftheorpheumtheatre.org/photo-tour.html
Historic Orchestra Lobby
Historic Orchestra Lobby Here is a photo of the orchestra lobby. It has been restored and the red carpet replicates the original carpet. Photo courtesy Friends of the Orpheum Theatre. Source: http://www.friendsoftheorpheumtheatre.org/photo-tour.html
Historic Mezzanine Lobby
Historic Mezzanine Lobby This photo shows the mezzanine lobby which opens up to a balcony overlooking the plaza outside. Photo courtesy Friends of the Orpheum Theatre. Source: http://www.friendsoftheorpheumtheatre.org/photo-tour.html
Historic Lower Lobby
Historic Lower Lobby The lower lobby has been restored to look like the original that opens up to lower level seating. Photo courtesy Friends of the Orpheum Theatre. Source: http://www.friendsoftheorpheumtheatre.org/photo-tour.html

Location

203 W Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85003

Metadata

Thomas Black, “Orpheum Theatre,” Salt River Stories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/97.