The Orpheum Theatre – Granville Street

Orpheum Granville

The Orpheum, like the Capitol down the street, relied on Granville Street for the entrance but Seymour Street for the big theatre box. While this leaves a huge expanse of bare brickwork on Seymour, it allowed a dramatic illuminated box office and entrance with a huge vertical fin sign on Granville. This was the third theatre to get the Orpheum name – we saw the first in an earlier post, and the second further north on Granville, when it became the New Orpheum. Technically this 1927 version should have been the new, New Orpheum, but the sign didn’t go that far. It was the biggest theatre in Canada when it was built with 3,000 seats, and cost $1.25 million.

Designed by Scottish-born theatre designer B Marcus Priteca, the Orpheum ran for only a very short time – until the early 1930s – as a theatre, before becoming a Famous Players movie house, although there were occasional theatrical events and shows. Our picture shows the facade in 1946. Priteca was based in Seattle where he met Alexander Pantages, for whom he designed many theatres. He is estimated to have designed over 150 theatres across North America over the years, although there were other Seatlle buildings that he designed as well.

A 1973 proposal to transform the theatre to a multiplex led to an outcry, and eventually the City of Vancouver paid just over seven million dollars to buy the theatre. The theatre’s sign has switched a few times since the one in the picture; for a while it was the RKO Orpheum. When the refurbishment was complete there was a move to drop the theatre’s name, but public opposition to that ensured the name – and the sign – remained as the Orpheum. A recent replacement uses low energy lighting to announce the theatre’s presence on the street, but retains the look of the 1948 version. The theatre is now the city’s biggest, and most important venue for classical music; home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Vancouver Chamber Choir.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-2290


Posted 15 November 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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