203 W. Adams Street,
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Orpheum Theatre - Phoenix (Official)
Previously operated by: Paramount Pictures Inc.
Architects: Hugh E. Gilbert
Firms: Lescher & Mahoney
Functions: Movies (Classic), Performing Arts
Styles: Atmospheric, Spanish Renaissance
Previous Names: Paramount Theatre, Palace West Theatre
Opened January 5, 1929, with a seating capacity of 1,520, the Orpheum Theatre began its life as a premier movie house and was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary Harry Nace. It was sold in 1949 and renamed the Paramount Theatre. In 1968, movies could no longer support the theatre and it closed with Milo O'Shea in “Ulysses” on December 5, 1967 and was sold again. Renamed the Palace West Theatre, the theatre was renovated for stage shows.
In 1977, the theatre returned to movies - showcasing Spanish language films. The city purchased the Orpheum Theatre in 1984 and in 1985 the theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Despite its new honor, the theatre closed, seemingly forever, in 1986.
However, after 11 years of raising funds and renovating, the theatre reopened in 1997 as a performing arts and community events center for the city of Phoenix. Classic movies began to be screened from October 2020.
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Recent comments (view all 47 comments)
I have a handful of “Popeye Gobs” that were apparently given to children to redeem at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix. Does anyone have any info to share about these? Thanks!
The Orpheum is a “Must-See” for anyone visiting Phoenix… it’s a gorgeous masterpiece of architecture. Go on one of the free tours, catch a show, and experience an old silent movie accompanied by the theatre organ.
Two other things I don’t think anyone has mentioned so far: I understand there was a search light at the top of the tower which used to revolve when there was a show going on. Also, from the downstairs lounge area, there was a glass ceiling on the one side which allowed you to look up to the street level above and see the people walking by.
I am reminded, as Cleopatra is being released today on Blu Ray, that I saw it here in 70mm. Arrived late after drive up from Tucson and was happy to have gotten balcony seats. Too bad Phoenix could not have saved The Fox and The Cine Capri also.
I saw Bwana Devil here in 1952 in 3S. Great theatre. Terrible movie.
1931 Orpheum exterior photo with Mae West added, courtesy of Randy Inghram.
January 5th, 1929 grand opening ad in photo section.
Official website link: https://phoenix.ticketforce.com/
This page at the Phoenix Opera web site says that the Orpheum has 1,364 seats, 1,062 on the orchestra floor and 302 in the balcony. There’s a link for downloading a seating chart in PDF format.
September 2018 article says it was built with 1800 seats…
Be certain to visit the Friends of the Orpheum Theatre (FOTOT) website for history and photos. FOTOT offers free historic tours throughout the year on alternating Tuesdays. Go to https://www.fototphx.org/ for more information.