The story of Memphis’ Orpheum theatre began in 1890 with the construction of the Grand Opera House. Vaudeville was the most popular form of entertainment at the time and the theatre featured music, magic, comedy, and many other forms of entertainment. It became part of the Orpheum vaudeville network in 1907, and so was popularly known as the Orpheum. In 1923, the theatre caught fire during a performance and was completely destroyed, to be rebuilt five years later, officially named the Orpheum.
The 1928 building was twice the size and grandeur of the original, and enjoyed years of success as Memphis’ premiere vaudeville house. As years passed and vaudeville became less popular, the Orpheum was purchased and converted to a movie house. In 1976 the theatre was again purchased and began featuring Broadway shows and concerts, though by this time it had fallen heavily into disrepair.
For two years in the early 1980s, the Orpheum closed to the public for a massive renovation project. Its reopening was a major symbol of the improvement of downtown Memphis, and the beginning of a new era of local live entertainment. The Orpheum today features the full spectrum of entertainment that it has featured in the past, including music concerts, film screenings, theatrical productions and comedy. The theatre features 10-12 Broadway productions annually, and is also home to such local arts organizations as Ballet Memphis and Opera Memphis.
The Orpheum Information
- Public Transportation: Poor
- Handicapped Accessible: Good
- Performances/Programs: Approximately 150 events programmed annually.
- Admission: Ticket prices vary depending on event.
- Subscriptions: Season ticket holders may purchase tickets for multiple showings of Broadway productions at a discount, and have the option of selling tickets if unable to make a performance. See website for details.