Orpheum Theatre

759 SW Broadway,
Portland, OR 97205

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CharmaineZoe
CharmaineZoe on February 22, 2014 at 4:55 pm

This theatre was erected in 1913 by the Blodgett Company Ltd on the site of the city’s former library on Broadway, 100 feet off Washington Street. The Condon-Noonan Company had intended to open it as an independent theatre but before it was completed Sullivan and Considine took a lease on the premises and finished the construction. When completed it was the home of the Orpheum shows. Tom Conlan was the theatres first active manager and he succesfully initiated the house to pictures during the summer of 1915. Sullivan & Considine afterwards moved the Orpheum shows to a theatre further up Broadway, transferring S & C vaudeville to the former Orpheum and changing the name to the Empress.

As the Empress it was operated until the Sullivan & Considine circuit left the field in May of 1916, when Turner & Dahnken leased the house from Ackerman & Harris of San Francisco, who had fallen heir to the S & C business. The theatre was reopened on May 14th 1916 as the T & D Theatre after a refurb, when the projection booth was enlarged and modern photoplay equipment installed, as well as the renovation of the interior and addition of a Hope-Jones Wurlitzer Unit Orchestra organ, (the pipes of which formed the stage setting) & electrical display, at a cost of $50,000.

The building itself was 100ft x 200ft with seating for 2,300 – of which 1,400 were on the lower level. There were 15 exits on to 3 streets. The walls were decorated with autumn scenes, with rich curtain hangings. Projection was furnished by 2 x Power’s machines. Manager of the T & D at this time was M. O. Leonhart, who had come from the T & D theater in Berkeley, California.
Source: archive.org/stream/movingpicturewor30newy#page/397/mode/1up

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Renovations described in this 1952 trade report: boxoffice

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 20, 2012 at 7:36 pm

According to a survey of historic buildings in downtown Portland, the original architect of the Empress Theatre in 1913 was Lee DeCamp. The aptly-named DeCamp was rather peripatetic, and at various times had offices in Denver, Portland, Chicago, Grand Rapids, and Cincinnati, as well as at least one branch office in Canada.

DeCamp designed at least two other theaters called the Empress, in Kansas City, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. DeCamp was for some time the supervising architect for the Sullivan & Considine vaudeville circuit, which favored the name Empress for its theaters. This might have accounted for his propensity to move from city to city. Many other Sullivan & Considine houses were undoubtedly designed or remodeled by DeCamp but are not yet attributed to him.

tomtom
tomtom on July 8, 2010 at 7:50 am

Does anyone have interior photos of the house or balcony? I had the privilege of seeing movies here as a kid and remember the steep and seemingly sweeping balcony. It always seemed, as a child, it could suck you to the end and over the railing. I realize this was not the case, but you know your memories. It was a shame to lose this and the other theaters Downtown Portland. I remember them fondly as my home away from home.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 6, 2009 at 6:58 pm

The Orpheum’s marquee and a portion of the vertical sign can be seen in the left background of this 1970 photo: View link

Davidfox
Davidfox on February 18, 2007 at 2:27 am

Luxury Theaters (if there was ever a misnomer…) was the last operator of the Orpheum, which, like all the other wonderful Portland theaters it acquired, let it fall apart.

Ancient history: In the summer of 1957, when the Orpheum was still a Fox Evergreen theater, an electrical short set fire to the screen, elaborate drapings (a massive waterfall curtain covering a beautiful cherry-red crushed-velvet traverse curtain) and adjacent curtains that had covered original ornamentation.

There were only a couple of people in the theater (a matinee) so nobody was hurt. The feature that day was the critically maligned “The Story of Mankind.” The Oregonian newspaper’s film critic commented that, yes, the movie was awful, but it wasn’t worth trying to burn down the theater.

strawberry
strawberry on April 7, 2006 at 8:40 am

And there’s a Christmas-time 1948 photo of the Orpheum’s concession stand at View link

strawberry
strawberry on April 7, 2006 at 8:22 am

There’s a 1972 photo of the Orpheum at View link

The entire block of the former theaters location is now taken up by the downtown Nordstrom. If it were still there it would face the today’s Pioneer Square.