Orpheum (Vancouver)

The Orpheum Theatre

Interior of the theatre
Former names New Orpheum
Location 601 Smithe Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6B 3L4
Owner The City of Vancouver (formerly owned by Famous Players)
Type Music venue (former movie palace)
Capacity 2,780
Opened November 7, 1927
Closed November, 1975 and Reopened April 2, 1977
Official name Orpheum Theatre National Historic Site of Canada
Designated 1979

The Orpheum is a theatre and music venue in Vancouver, British Columbia. Along with the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the Vancouver Playhouse, it is part of the Vancouver Civic Theatres group of live performance venues. It is the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The Orpheum is located on Granville Street near Smithe Street in Vancouver's downtown core. The interior of the theatre was featured prominently in the award-winning 2004 television series Battlestar Galactica, where it is dressed to portray a heavenly opera house.


The Orpheum Theatre with advertising for the movie Lady Luck, circa 1946.

Designed by Scottish architect Marcus Priteca,[1] the theatre officially opened on November 7, 1927 as a vaudeville house, but it hosted its first shows the previous day.[2][3] The old Orpheum, at 761 Granville Street, was renamed the Vancouver Theatre (later the Lyric, then the International Cinema, then the Lyric once more before it closed for demolition in 1969 to make way for the first phase of the Pacific Centre project).[4] The New Orpheum, which was the biggest theatre in Canada when it opened in 1927, with three thousand seats,[3] cost $1.25 million to construct.[5][6] The first manager of the theatre was William A. Barnes.[3]

Following the end of vaudeville's heyday in the early 1930s, the Orpheum became primarily a movie house under Famous Players ownership, although it would continue to host live events on occasion. Ivan Ackery managed the Orpheum during most of this period, from 1935[7] up until his 1969 retirement.[8]

In 1973, for economic reasons, Famous Players decided to gut the inside of the Orpheum and change it into a multiplex.[9] A "Save the Orpheum" public protest and fundraising campaign was launched, which even Jack Benny flew in to help with,[5][9] and the Orpheum was saved. On March 19, 1974,[2] the City of Vancouver bought the theatre for $7.1 million, with $3.1 million coming from the city itself, and $1.5 million from each of the provincial and federal governments.[5][6] The Orpheum closed in November 1975 and a renovation and restoration was done by the architectural company Thomson, Berwick, Pratt and Partners.[6][10] It re-opened on April 2, 1977 and has since been the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.[2][11] Tony Heinsbergen, a U.S. designer who originally chose the color scheme for the interior (ivory, moss green, gold and burgundy) was brought back, fifty years later, for the renovation.[12] In 1983, an additional entrance was opened on Smithe Street.[6]

The theatre was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1979.[13]

In 2006, the Capitol Residences development was proposed for the old Capitol 6 cinema adjacent to the Orpheum. The City of Vancouver gave the developer permission for extra height and density on their site in return for a major expansion to the Orpheum, including a long desired back stage area. This was the largest amenities trade in the history of the city, and will increase the usability of the facility.[14]

The Orpheum's neon sign was donated by Jim Pattison in the 1970s.[15]

The theater and its neon sign have been used as a key location in several episodes of the science-fiction series Battlestar Galactica and Fringe, as well as Highlander: The Series. It was also the location of the filming of the Dan Mangan documentary What Happens Next? by Brent Hodge.

See also

The Orpheum Theatre, advertising the Vancouver Symphony Orcherstra.


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Coordinates: 49°16′48″N 123°07′13″W / 49.280096°N 123.120196°W / 49.280096; -123.120196

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