The Vancouver Orpheum opened its doors on November 8, 1927. Ah, it was a grand building, the largest theatre in Canada at the time, with a construction price tag of $1.25 million. Three thousand seats awaited an audience eager to see the interior of the much-awaited theatre.
Buildings have biographies and encounter transitions that reflect our ever-changing societies. Would it surprise you to know that the Vancouver Orpheum was launched as a vaudeville house? The vaudeville that became popular in North America from the early 1880s until the early 1930s, was similar to the music halls of Victorian Britain.
When the voices and acts of vaudeville’s singers, dancers, comedians and magicians fell silent in the late 1930’s, the Orpheum became a movie house, under the Famous Players name.
The crisis occurred in 1973.
In 1973, Famous Players made a financial decision that would change the course of our beloved Orpheum’s history. The Orpheum was scheduled for a major upgrade to a multiplex. The magnificent interior was to be gutted. The public protest was heard across Vancouver and beyond. Even Jack Benny made an emotional appearance.
The Orpheum was saved.
The City of Vancouver bought the Orpheum and closed the theatre on November 23, 1975 to complete a full restoration. April 2, 1977 the Orpheum was reopened and is now the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Two years later, in 1979, the Orpheum was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
During December, our family attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah. After the crowds dispersed, I stayed behind to capture a few photos to celebrate the history of this noble building and all those who came together to save its legacy for generations to come.
Come, join me on a short walk through a building that has graced Vancouver for nearly 100 years.
Music by Cercles Nouvelles “Palace Garden Roses” Epidemic Sound