For over 80 years the Orpheum theatre on Granville Street has been far more than an iconic neon sign. Hosting concerts, comedy showcases, the VSO, and even my high school commencement ceremony, this gorgeous venue is an magnificent slice of Vancouver history.
“All around the theatre, on every floor, are ornamental grace notes – murals, paintings and other art work, decorated wall fabrics, tiling, fancy balustrades, gilded mirrors, ironwork, ornate chandeliers, sconces, corbels, tapestries, plush carpeting, varied and exotic architectural embellishments – a never-ending feast for the eye.” – VancouverHistory
The theatre was built for $1 million in 1927, hosting Vaudeville acts and the latest motion pictures from Hollywood.
“Architect B. Marcus Priteca is recognized as the most accomplished theatre designer of his era in the American Northwest and Western Canada. This is the only surviving Canadian theatre designed by Priteca.” – City of Vancouver
Over the years names like Garbo, Gable, Bogart, Bacall, Hepburn, Monroe, Olivier, Lancaster, Bette Davis, Jack Benny, and Alec Guinness graced the stage.
“By 1969, the Orpheum’s days appeared numbered. Cinema was facing heavy competition from television, and Famous Players was looking for ways to increase the return on its valuable downtown real estate. The planned conversion meant turning the large theatre into a multiplex. Rhonna Fleming a Community Arts Council (CAC) volunteer discovered the plans for the Orpheum when she began documenting its history in 1972. This was the beginning of the ‘Save the Orpheum’ campaign.” – City of Vancouver
The Orpheum was indeed “saved” by donations topping $432,000 and funding from various levels of government. In 1977, after a restoration process it re-opened featuring the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
In 1994 it also became the starting point for the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame Starwalk that loops up and down Granville.
In 1995 it was upgraded and in 2009 it was refurbished once more as it was designated a National Historic Site. Coming up this year the Orpheum will host artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Great Big Sea, The Canadian Tenors and the 2010-2011 season of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Thanks to GayVancouver for recently hosting a night at the VSO which inspired this post.