Orpheum Theatre

129 University Place,
New Orleans, LA 70112

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Orpheum Theatre, New Orleans, LA

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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, which continue in 2014.

Contributed by Joe Drefahl, James P. Kovata

Recent comments (view all 54 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 3, 2010 at 1:30 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
meflaherty on October 17, 2010 at 8:05 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 8:46 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
spectrum on March 30, 2011 at 12:05 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
gill on March 2, 2013 at 6:46 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 9:31 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
WTKFLHN on February 10, 2014 at 3:05 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.

spectrum
spectrum on August 19, 2014 at 6:45 am

New article about the Orpheum renovations, including a slide show of 2014 interior pictures:

http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2014/07/orpheum_theater_renovation.html

spectrum
spectrum on August 19, 2014 at 7:02 am

The renovation is already underway – from the photos in the link above, they are already working on the walls, seats and carpet are removed, everything’s well underway. The article describes the work as a $13,000,000 renovation which is expected to take about a year to complete. The new owner is Tiptina’s owner Roland von Kurnakowski who purchased it in February 2014. When it reopens, the Orpheum will not only host the Philharmonic Symphony, but will also have other concerts, movie showings and special events. The formerly unused basement will also be renovated and put to use.

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