Orpheum Theatre

210 W. Seventh Street,
Okmulgee, OK 74447

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HowardBHaas on April 16, 2013 at 2:28 pm

photos including ornate lobby here http://www.flickr.com/photos/sethgaines/page4/

seymourcox on July 18, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Sharp vintage interior/exteriors images of the Orpheum Theatre can be found on this nice web site,

seymourcox on November 19, 2009 at 5:04 am

As mentioned above, originally the Orpheum Theatre had an Austin pipe organ. Hear a couple of those instruments on this site –

raybradley on July 20, 2009 at 6:43 pm

Several sources have told me about an Orpheum doorman, named Jeff Chapman, who was the crush of all local junior high girls during the late 1960’s.
After college Jeff was house manager of the Sooner Theater in Norman, OK, where his charm earned him the same admiration as he had enjoyed in Okmulgee.

raybradley on July 2, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Symco; If you really want to see exactly what the frosted glass sidelight fixtures looked like inside the Orpheum auditorium, then go to this site and type in word “Dixie”. Auditorium views for the Holdenville Dixie Theatre show the exact same sidewall fixtures. These fixtures were more fancy than those found inside the Art Theatre, Champaign, IL.
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kpdennis on April 21, 2009 at 11:47 pm

The Orpheum, taken April 2009 – the very nice crew let me come in before they opened to take a look around. Magnificent place, a must-see if you’re in the area.
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Don Lewis
Don Lewis on March 20, 2008 at 11:12 am

A 1984 photo of the Orpheum Theater showing “Temple of Doom” and “Sixteen Candles”.

raybradley on October 27, 2007 at 9:23 pm

Allowing for colorful versatility, these frosted fixtures seemed to be popular amoung theatre operators. This style of lighting is also found inside the Art Theatre (AKA-Park), Champaign, IL.
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JohnMcConnel on October 27, 2007 at 8:21 pm

I don’t believe the fixtures in the Orpheum were quite like the one pictured. The Orpheum’s fixtures were faced with strips of frosted glass, as the fixture in the picture does, but the strips were the full length of the fixture, which was about four feet, and the fixtures were a little less elegant than the one pictured. The fixtures that were on the Orpheum sidewalls were mounted where oscillating fans were originally installed.

Video Theatres (and their predecessor, Griffith Theatres), used the same fixture that was in the Orpheum in several of their theatres.

seymourcox on October 27, 2007 at 6:21 pm

In the 50’s & 60’s auditorium main floor walls were lined with six Art Deco lighting fixtures identical to the one pictured here. Manager Ed Swallow would lamp these four-foot long fixtures to match the season. During cool winter months lighting colors were warm red, yellow, and orange. During hot summer seasons colors were cool blue and green.
My guess would be that these chandeliers were brought in from some other theatre.

JohnMcConnel on September 1, 2007 at 5:26 am

The Austin organ’s 16-foot violone rank and 16-foot open diapason rank were located a few years ago stored over the boiler room at a Baptist college in Watertown, WI, and were brought back to the theatre.

seymourcox on August 7, 2007 at 12:15 am

Oklahoma Hyterical Society archives contain top quality photos of the Orpheum Theatre exterior/interior. Unfortunately, these B&W pictures just can’t convey brilliant color used to dress up fancy plasterwork, that consisted of bright red, deep blue, and vibrant green.
To view these fine prints type in “okmulgee orpheum”, then search…
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seymourcox on January 20, 2007 at 6:06 pm

Architect Leon B. Senter, who designed this theatre, apparently also created a 1940’s facelift for Tulsa’s Rialto Theatre. See Rialto listing for details.

Dockbob on October 8, 2006 at 3:44 am

My father was Malcolm Cook and it was my understanding he owned the theatre and invented Screeno which was sold to Griffif on his death in 1939.

JohnMcConnel on September 24, 2006 at 9:06 pm

The Orpheum opened Aug. 23, 1920. The opening picture, called a photoplay at that time, was “Eyes of Youth”, with Clara Kimball Young. Also featured on the opening program was a pipe organ concert, and a 12-unit stage show produced by the Vanderbilt University Glee Club of Nashville, TN.

Construction started in 1919, which is the date on the cornerstone, but it actually opened in 1920. It was built by L. H. D Cook, and its name initially was the Cook Theatre, which is in raised terra cotta at the top of the facade. CT, for Cook Theatre, is repeated on small terra shields over poster frames in the lobby, and is also on an oval shield at the top of the proscenium arch.

Orpheum Vaudeville was featured, and within two months of opening, Mr. Cook was using both the Orpheum and Cook names in parallel, with the name ‘Cook’ in smaller print. In less than a year, he officially changed the theatre’s name to the Orpheum, and installed an elaborate new double-sided electric sign with the name ‘Orpheum’ in bright incandescent lights, beneath a crown of lights known as waterburst lighting. The waterburst effect was produced by a motorized electromechanical flasher housed in a steel cabinet inside the building.

According to a retired stagehand, the main stage curtain opened both vertically, and side-to-side, using a curtain motor that flew. Conversion from stage to screen could be done in 45 seconds.

Ownership of the theatre was separated from ownership of the building, and Griffith Brothers Theatres, which evolved into Griffith Amusement Co., and then into Video Independent Theatres, purchased the theatre, ca. 1924. Keith/Albee/Orpheum never owned it. The building was sold in tiny fractional interests to Greek people, many of whom lived in Greece, and didn’t pay their share of taxes or maintenance. It took several years, and the help of the Greek ambassador, to consolidate the fractured ownership.

Martin Theatres got it in 1982 by absorbing the Video Theatres circuit. Martin was soon re-named Carmike Cinemas, who operated it into 1991. An independent operator bought the theatre from Carmike, and then bought the building from the landlord.

Video Theatres enclosed the balcony and converted it into two theatres in 1974.

As to architectural features that are covered, occasionally a new treasure is discovered. The most recent discovery was two circular plaster embellishments in the plain portion of the ceiling that was over cheap seats in the upper balcony, and is now covered by a suspended ceiling.

The remains of upper orchestra box seats were discovered behind false plaster walls at the side of the stage. The false walls were removed, and destroyed decorative plaster was reconstructed by a retired Hollywood craftsman.

raybradley on September 10, 2006 at 7:25 pm

I know Keith/Albee/Orpheum Circuit bought this theatre a few years after it opened. In what year did they rename it Orpheum?

raybradley on September 10, 2006 at 6:15 pm

Where do some of these people get their facts?
Obviously this theatre opened in 1919 as the Cook theatre. Lower left corner of the Orpheum Bldg contains an engraved cornerstone that clearly states this theatre opened in 1919 as the Cook Theatre, Leon B. Senter, architect.
Along the building top are are molded letters spelling out COOK THEATRE.
Wonder if there are any historic “goodies” hidden inside that cornerstone?

raybradley on August 26, 2006 at 9:54 pm

Offered here for your approval is a recent Jackie Yandle photograph of the Orpheum Theatre. In this shot one can get a glimse of the colorful terra-cotta lobby.

Okie on March 19, 2006 at 4:06 pm

Listed here are Architect L.B. Senter’s other building designs …
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xxx on May 23, 2005 at 3:19 am

From 1966 through 1969, while attending high school I worked as doorman at the ornate Orpheum Theatre. This was near the end of the period when showmanship still meant plenty of flashy ballyhoo, and going out to a movie was an exciting event. It was great fun belonging to the Orpheum crew, and we prided ourselves as professional theatre people. Once for journalism class I wrote an article about our unique clique, and (though there were no job openings)for the next three weeks Manager Ed Swallow was deluged with job applicants hoping to join our team. Years pass swiftly, and I now live in Illinois, but fond memories abound of those golden years spent inside that wonderful theatre.

brentclarkf on May 9, 2005 at 6:05 pm

We’re planning a return trip here this summer. And this time, we have our digital camera. You’ve got to see the inside of the Orpheum. It defines ornate! Truly a work of art. I hope the restoration is continuing.

brentclarkf on December 20, 2004 at 3:29 am

This theatre is AWESOME! The owner is currently restoring it, and he is doing a great job! My wife and I met John, Daniel, and the rest of the staff Saturday night. The detail in this theatre is truly spectacular. It’s currently a two-screener because the balcony has been enclosed; however, they are restoring it as we speak. This one’s worth the drive. We live in Stillwater, so it was a little bit of a drive for us. I know there are theatre lovers throughout the state, and believe me, this one’s worth the trip! If you are interested, call them. They have the whole theatre’s history and are happy to share it with you.

JanDeRamus on August 10, 2004 at 4:32 am

Hi to all,
I am Janice (Kinser) DeRamus and I worked as a cashier at the Orpheum Theatre from Oct. 1956 to June 1958. Oh what a time I had there. Between my sister, Carla, and myself we were the cashiers for the Orpheum. She left in June 1957. Can’t remember just when my little sister, Judy, started working at the Orpheum, but believe it was after Sept. 1957. Oh, “THOSE WERE THE DAYS.”

Some of the names I can remember are the Edge twins (Elinor & Lynn), Bill Santee, Bob Steward, Bettye Suter and her parents (can’t remember Mom’s name, but DAD we called T-Bone Suter), Mike Hellwege, Richard Vaughn, think maybe Blaine Walters, and the concession girl I believe was named Lucille. Anyway, she was married and had some children.

Mr. Dale Hellwege was our manager. When we had matinees during school days Mrs. Hellwege would work the box office. I remember those big heavy velvet drapes and all the decor. When I worked there the box office was built out, sort of on the sidewalk, but the entrance to it was from the lobby.

I’d love to hear from some of the old Orpheum cronies.

unknown on November 3, 2003 at 3:53 am

i used to live in okmulgee when i was younger and i would appreiciate if you would put more of the inside pictures. THe art deco style was something that made that movie theatre special.

THank ya

JohnMcConnel on March 23, 2002 at 2:18 am

Here’s more information:
Architect: Leon B. Senter
Style: Spanish Baroque Revival
Seats: Originally 1200; now 550.
Date of Opening: 1920
Screens: 2 – Its balcony was enclosed in 1974 for the second screen.
Ownership: Independent
Function: In commercial operation, playing first-run movies