Orpheum Theatre

13 W. Poplar Street,
Harrisburg, IL 62946

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The Orpheum Theatre, which stood on W. Poplar Street at N. Main Street, was in operation from December 1908. It was a remodel of a former Presbyterian Church. It was demolished in 1911 to build a new 600 seat Orpheum Theatre on the site. It was later expanded to 887 seats. It was badly damaged by a fire and demolished in 1929 to build a new Orpheum Theatre on the site.

It was operated by the Turner-Farrar Theatres chain by the early-1950’s, and their offices were located at the Orpheum Theatre. The Orpheum Theatre was closed in 1977, and has since been demolished.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 14, 2009 at 11:56 am

Here is a December 1957 ad from the Harrisburg Daily Register. “Zero Hour” was the inspiration for the 1980 film “Airplane”.
http://tinyurl.com/cksz9j

lsnidle
lsnidle on February 21, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Does anyone know if this theater was remodeled in the late 50’s or early 60’s. I believe our church in Grayville, IL purchased the old theater seats. We are getting ready to remodel our church and we plan to sell the seats.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 1, 2018 at 3:03 pm

This item is from the January 19, 1929, issue of Exhibitors Herald-World:

“New Theatre with Sound To Replace Fire Ruins

“(Special to the Herald-World)

“HARRISBURG, ILL., Jan. 15.— The Orpheum, which was ruined by fire several weeks ago, will be replaced by a modern picture house. The new theatre will be equipped with DeForest Phonefilm and will open in March.”

I’ve been unable to find anything else about the fire at the earlier Orpheum. The Orpheum was operated by the Colonial Amusement Company as early as 1912. Colonial was a precursor of Turner-Farrar Theatres, and Steve Farrar was manager of the chain’s Casino Theatre in El Dorado, Illinois, by 1916, as noted in the August 12 issue of The Moving Picture World that year. O. L. Turner was connected with the company from the time of its incorporation, which was noted in this item from the July 6, 1912, issue of the MPW:
“The newly incorporated Colonial Amusement Company of Harrisburg, Ill., will operate three theaters in that city in addition to the new Knell Theater, at Mt. Carmel, Ill., which has been leased. O. L. Turner will be in charge of the Mt. Carmel house.”
Harrisburg had a house called the Majestic Airdome as early as 1911, so it might have been one of the three houses there that Colonial controlled. I haven’t found the Grand theatre mentioned earlier than 1918, so the third house Colonial had at Harrisburg might have been another, as yet unidentified.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 1, 2018 at 3:51 pm

The rebuilt Orpheum of 1929 was actually the third Harrisburg house of that name. A history of Harrisburg’s theaters published in the June 28, 1965, issue of the Eldorado, Illinois Eldorado Daily Journal said that “[i]n 1911 the old church building housing the Orpheum was torn down and in its place was constructed a new Orpheum to seat 600 people.” The same article said that the original Orpheum had been opened by the Turner brothers in the converted church in December, 1908. It also notes that the Colonial Amusement Company expanded the second Orpheum to a seating capacity of 887 in 1917. The 1929 post-fire rebuilding is also mentioned.

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