Orpheum Theatre

129 University Place,
New Orleans, LA 70112

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Orpheum Theatre, New Orleans, LA

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Orpheum Theatre opened in 1918 as a vaudeville theatre. It was known as the RKO Orpheum Theatre, and became a movie theatre for a while. It was scheduled to be demolished in 1969.

However, it was purchsed by the New Orleans Symphony and was restored. After the New Orleans Symphony folded, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the nation’s largest musician-owned professional symphony orchestra took over, and made the theatre its home. The acoustics and lines were ideal. Concerts and other artistic performances and speeches took place in the building. The Orpheum Theatre was added to the Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters inundated the theatre basement, which housed electrical systems, and part of the orchestra level. In 2011, it is undergoing renovations.

Contributed by Joe Drefahl, James P. Kovata

Recent comments (view all 51 comments)

ArthurHardy on June 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Announcing a book about New Orleans Movie Theaters

The History of the Neighborhood Theaters in New Orleans
is being written by 89-year-old Rene Brunet, the dean of the motion picture industry in Louisiana, and New Orleans historian and preservationist Jack Stewart. The 160-page,coffee table book will be released in November and is being published by Arthur Hardy Enterprises, Inc. Attention will be focused on 50 major neighborhood and downtown theaters, culled from a list of nearly 250 that have dotted the cityâ€\s landscape since the first “nickelodeon” opened in 1896 at 626 Canal Street. The book will be divided by neighborhoods and will open with a map and a narrative about each area. Each major theater will feature “then and now” photographs, historic information, and a short series of quotes from famous New Orleanians and from regular citizens who will share their recollections.
We are trying to acquire memorabilia and additional photos of this theater for this publication. (deadline July 1.) You will be credited in the book and receive a free autographed copy if we publish the picture that you supply. Please contact Arthur Hardy at or call 504-913-1563 if you can help.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 21, 2010 at 3:11 am

Stagecoach in front of the Orpheum, from Boxoffice magazine, August 1, 1966:
View link

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 3, 2010 at 4:30 am

A 1921 issue of the architectural journal Pencil Points ran this ad for The Northwestern Terra Cotta Company, which featured a photo of the Orpheum with its original entrance configuration and marquee.

meflaherty on October 17, 2010 at 11:05 am

The original article here discusses that the upper balcony was for blacks, but in the early 60’s I definately remember sitting anywhere in the theatre. You could easily walk to any level and I don’t have any recollection of certain seating areas for blacks.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

I don’t know when “seg” ended in N.O. but I recall being there in August 1964 for a day or two while traveling. In the New Orleans Union Terminal waiting room, one could see where the letters spelling out “Whites Only” and “Colored Only” had been removed from the walls. So that big rail station had been desegregated by then, and maybe the Orpheum Theatre as well.

spectrum on March 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm

According to this article (http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2011/03/post_35.html), renovations of the Orpheum started on 2/14/11.

Over the next 12-14 months they plan to repair the roof, stage, electrical, seating and everything else.

They are continuing to secure financing while the work progresses.

The previous owners (mentioned in above posts to 2009) sold the orpheum to a new owner in 2010.

gill on March 2, 2013 at 8:46 am

An excellent 1928 photo of the New Orleans Orpheum appears on the Historic-Memphis.com website theatre page. Here’s a link to the page.

frank gagliano
frank gagliano on February 6, 2014 at 11:31 am

The Orpheum was recently sold and is now scheduled to enjoy a $16 million restoration correcting he longstanding damages resulting from hurricane Katrina.

Good news for New Orleans theater lovers, all of the remaining downtown theaters have been restored, or, are in the process of restoration to their original beauty. Loews, Civic, Joy, Saenger, and the Orpheum all live again.

WTKFLHN on February 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Yes, Frank. The Theatre was recently sold to the owners of Tipitina’s. As you say, it’s to be remolded and will hopefully be the home of the La Philharmonic Symphony, again.

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