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.