Over the course of our travels, we have visited a number of theaters from the 1920s and 1930s that have been restored to their former beauty. And in almost every case it took a handful of people with a vision and a zeal to save these beauties from destruction and another group of people (or a community) with the financial resources to make the dream of restoration a reality.
Our most recent example is the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix.
As we approached the marquee, we passed the stucco façade that was detailed to simulate stone,
When vaudeville faded, the Orpheum became the best place in town to see a movie, earning the reputation as the “Grand Dame of Movie Theaters.”
In 1949, the Orpheum was sold to a national movie theater chain and was renamed the Paramount. Although it was still the people’s choice for seeing a movie, over the next 20 years there was a gradual decline in patronage as new theaters opened.
A brief period serving as one of James Nederlander's string of playhouses for touring Broadway companies (1969-1977) was followed by another few years as a theater showing Spanish language films.
In the early 1980’s, Jim Kaufman purchased the Orpheum and turned it over to the City of Phoenix at no cost. Shortly thereafter, the Junior League of Phoenix began planning the theater's restoration. After 10 years and 14.5 million dollars, the Orpheum re-opened in 1997.
Prior to renovation, the Orpheum had retail stores fronting Adams Street with offices above. The restoration program required expanding the lobby. This was accomplished by annexing the retail/office space and combining it into a two story space accessible from the theatre and historic lobbies.