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A Brief History “It was like gala night at the opera,” the New Orleans Item reported of the

Orpheum Theater opening on February 7, 1921. Jewel and fur clad women and dapper gentlemen filled the Orpheum Theater, New Orleans’ newest and most fashionable theater where “good taste reigned everywhere.” This auspicious evening’s main attraction was THE SINGER MIDGETS who were to enter Hollywood immortality nine years later as the Munchkins of The Wizard Of Oz. A bit of incongruous perhaps with the “dressed-tothe-nines” crowd, but this was the heyday of Vaudeville and the Singer Midgets was a class act – and so was the Orpheum. Build between 1918 and 1921, the Orpheum was owned and operated by the Keith-Orpheum Circuit and was the newest and brightest jewel in the Circuit’s crown of many. An ornately striking building, the Orpheum’s Breux Arts décor is a true expression of theater elegance now only understood in the past. Intricate stucco work creating garlands, medallions and other neo-classical motifs animate the entire auditorium and a lively Bacchanalian façade that is the largest expanse of post-World War I terra cotta and the only example of polychromed terra cotta in the city. This unique combination of form, construction and composition give the front of the theater a look more of neo-Romanesque pottery. Subdued and muted blues, pinks and beige highlighted with delicate touches of gold distinguish the Orpheum Theater interior from the garish red clad Italian Baroque designed theaters of its time. Several novelties set the Orpheum apart in the 1920’s, including the only theater elevator in the South and “air cooling” by forcing air over blocks of ice in the basement. Vaudeville-goers were greeted by a Spanish Tile floor which gave way to terrazzo in 1949. The same renovations resulted in the flashing movie marquee, the bay window ticket booth and the glass and stainless steel front doors. By 1925 pure Vaudeville was being compromised by the interest in movies. At the Orpheum, silent films were being shown between matinee and evening performances. Later in 1928, Keith-Orpheum merged with radio interest to form RKO, which regularly supplied films to the theater. Then, in 1923, Roosevelt closed the banks and the Orpheum followed suit that very same gray day only to merge weeks later solely as a movie house. The array of stars that the Orpheum Theater promised were now the stars of the silver screen. The Orpheum remained a true “movie palace” where big pictures and first runs were the rule. The theater was host to several of those “star-filled” premiers talked about so often in the columns and broadcasts of Hopper, Parson and Winchel. As a subtle hint of things to come, the New Orleans Symphony, under the direction of Massimo Feccia, performed a pre-screening concert for the premier of FRANCIS THE TALKING MULE in 1950. Screaming teeny-boppers stormed the lobby in 1952 grabbing membership forms for the Tony Curtis Fan Club. In 1969, Rock Hudson and John Wayne made personal appearances. On June 7, 1986, the Sundance Kid himself, super-star Robert Reford, appeared in person at the Orpheum for the premiere of his LEGAL EAGLES. Even in the 1980’s the Orpheum still offered the best. All that glittered was, unfortunately, not always gold for the Orpheum Theater. By the late 1970’s the decline of the matinee audiences, a growing number of suburban cinemas, and the popularity of television combined with a supply of bad movies brought the downtown theater into a marginal profit situation. In the fall of 1979 the Orpheum sold its last movie ticket and awaited demolition by Wilson P. Abraham Construction Corporation to make way for his new deluxe hotel. Enter City Lights, Inc., the preservationist group and savior that also saved the Saenger Theater, the St. Charles Streetcars and that blocked the despotic sway of progress’ wrecking ball. In 1980, as debate was still raging, the structure’s owner, All-Right Auto Parks, donated the Orpheum to the New Orleans

On September 10. After the award of a two million dollar state grant for renovation. the Symphony could claim the Orpheum as its home and end over forty years of nomadic rehearsing and performing. and the acoustics are so near perfect that Joan of Arc could not be more respective of its voices. complete with red carpet and search lights. 1982. An inaugural gala concert. The Orpheum’s shallow design provides an intimacy often lost in orchestra performances. the Orpheum Theater (now on the Local and National Registry of Historic Places) re-opened as the city’s new Symphony Hall. was presented under the baton of Music Director Phillippe Entremont and to the virtuosity of guest star violinist Itzhak Perlman. .Symphony.