Orpheum Theatre circa 1946
At the time of its completion in 1927, the Orpheum was the biggest theatre in Canada, with 3000 seats. $1.25 million was spent on its construction ($17 million in today’s dollars), which funded not only its size but also its opulent interior.
In its early days, the Orpheum was a vaudeville house, hosting live theatrical shows in an era before the widespread popularity of motion pictures. By the mid-30s, however, vaudeville was quickly being outgunned by the movie industry and by the end of that decade the Orpheum was being used primarily as a movie theatre under the ownership of the Famous Players company.
The Orpheum remained a single-screen movie house until 1973 when Famous Players tabled a plan to convert the structure into a multiplex cinema. The plan was met with widespread backlash from citizens who wished to see the heritage theatre preserved. A “Save the Orpheum” campaign was launched which, with the help of celebrity endorsement from the likes of Jack Benny, convinced the City of Vancouver to purchase the Orpheum at a cost of $7.1 million.
An extensive 2-year restoration effort followed, which restored the threadbare theatre to the glory of its early days thanks, in part, to assistance from the theatre’s original interior designer. In 1977, the newly restored Orpheum opened to much fanfare and has since been used primarily as a live performance venue and home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Orpheum Theatre as it appears today
To learn more about the fascinating history of the street our hotel calls home, stay tuned to the Ramada Downtown Vancouver Hotel blog.
Wikipedia. “Orpheum (Vancouver”
City of Vancouver Archives “Exterior View of the Orpheum Theatre”