Orpheum Theatre

2520 Washington Boulevard,
Ogden, UT 84401

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1967 photo courtesy of Doug Stephens‎.

When it opened on December 29, 1890, as the Grand Opera House, the theatre was strictly stage plays and vaudeville. The Ogden Standard proclaimed “The vast auditorium contained 1,750 spectators and the box office sales reached the enormous sum of $2,150”. The Standard-Examiner said in 1928 that the advent of movies made vaudeville less profitable so in 1909, after a name change to the Orpheum Theatre and a policy change to movies and Pantages vaudeville, it began to show a profit. In September of 1925, the Orpheum Theatre and the local Paramount house came under the control of Louis J. Marcus, a future mayor of Salt Lake.

In 1928, the Orpheum Theatre was sold, remodeled with a new ventilating system and sound system added. Its first sound movie was Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer”, which opened on June 2, 1928, bringing the first talkies to Ogden. The Film Daily Yearbook of 1940 gave a reduced seating capacity of 1,152 and by 1950 the Film Daily Yearbook had the seating at 1,037.

Various owners/operators over the years included Louis J. Marcus, A.T. Glasmann or other Glasmanns, Famous Theatres, Publix Theatres and Paramor theatres or partnerships of the preceding. Paramor theaters also operated the Local Paramount, Lyceum and Colonial theaters.

The Orpheum Theatre received an “ultra-modern” remodeling in time for the 1954 Christmas season. The plans by Ogden based architect Keith Wilcox included a 30' long Formica snack bar and a semi-circular marquee which followed the curve of the terrace above the entrance. Interior and exterior photos of the remodeling were in the Ogden paper on December 24. The movie on the marquee was Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in “3 Ring Circus”, which was Paramount Pictures second Vista-Vision film.

A May 7, 1977 local news article with, interior photos, gives an account of the history of the Orpheum Theatre. At that time the theatre was remodeled with new seats and the screen put on rollers so Weber State College could stage plays. Manager Richard Glasmann said that he believed the stage curtain came from the Radio City Music Hall in the 1920’s or 1930’s. It is not known when the Orpheum Theatre ceased showing films but as late as 1977, it was still advertising in the local paper. Other sources say that the Orpheum Theatre was demolished in late-1983.

Contributed by Ron Pierce

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 3, 2008 at 10:37 am

As the Grand Opera House, this theater is listed in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide under Ogden Utah. Joseph Clark was the Mgr., the seating capacity was 1,700, and the theater was on the ground floor. The proscenium opening was 37 feet wide X 30 feet high, and the stage was 45 feet deep. Ogden newspapers were the Standard and the Press, both daily, plus 3 weeklies. Hotels for show folk were the Reed, Broom, Central and Chapman. Railroads were the UP, SP, Rio Grande Western and the Oregon Short Line. The 1897 population of Ogden was 18,000.

mlitsonata on October 1, 2010 at 10:10 pm

The history here seems to say that there were only films and vaudeville here after 1909. Vaudeville is, of course, live performances in the form of skits – musical acts, dances, maybe scenes, but not full plays. But I think it was probably vaudeville and a legitimate theater, with a few films, until the remodel in 1928. rGreenRoom has confirmed that there was at least one full length play performed there in 1923, produced by the local Weber College.

mlitsonata on October 1, 2010 at 10:11 pm

rGreenRoom listing for the Orpheum:
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rGreenRoom listing for the production there in 1923:
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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 2, 2010 at 1:09 am

After the Orpheum became part of a vaudeville circuit in 1909, though it might have presented full stage shows occasionally, this would probably have been done infrequently and only for short runs— a week, or even just three or four days. The way vaudeville circuits were set up, with most of the circuit’s acts booked for 42 straight weeks of traveling from town to town, there wasn’t much flexibility in the schedules of the theaters.

Traveling road productions of popular plays and musicals might have been presented at Ogden’s Orpheum, if the town had available no other large theater capable of hosting them, but the house most likely ran combination shows of vaudeville and movies most of the year.

By the mid-1910s virtually all vaudeville theaters outside the major cities had become combination houses, offering continuous shows with four to six live acts and a feature film. Once in a while a major all-vaudeville show with ten or more acts might be presented in smaller cities, but those were special occasions. In a market the size of Ogden it would have been primarily combination shows year-round for most of the period during which the Orpheum was part of a circuit.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 2, 2010 at 1:45 am

In 1891, the B. F. Sturtevant Co., makers of heating and ventilation systems, put out a book displaying drawings of many of the buildings in which their equipment had been installed. One of these was the Ogden Opera House. The brief text accompanying the drawing gives the name of the architect of the opera house, S.G. Whitaker.

DavidZornig on April 16, 2017 at 6:21 am

1959 program image added courtesy of Kathy Malone Files‎. Early `70’s photo added courtesy of Rod Nelson.

DavidZornig on April 16, 2017 at 6:30 am

1968 & 1975 photos added courtesy of Carl Marsing. The large ornate marquee was removed due to a city ordinance about signage overhanging sidewalks.

DavidZornig on April 16, 2017 at 6:54 am

1929 photo added courtesy of Rod Nelson.

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