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The Orpheum as a Trendsetter

It may come as a surprise to many that there was once a plan to replace the Orpheum with a parking garage for the new City Hall back in the 1980’s. At that point, the Theatre, which opened in January 1929, was the only movie palace left in Phoenix. When word got out about the City’s plans, civic groups (like the Junior League) began a campaign to inform the public about the City’s idea, and to raise funds to save the building. Finally, cooler heads and common sense prevailed, and after 10+ years and $14.5 million, the “new” Orpheum was re-opened in January 1997.

A lot has changed in Downtown Phoenix since the Orpheum re-opened. A lot of that change involves the “new”: hi- and low-rise housing, hotels, theaters (Comerica), and of course the new ASU Campus. But equally important, a lot of the change involves the “old”: restoring, upgrading, or adaptive re-use of existing buildings. Some examples: the Orpheum Lofts, Luhrs Buildings, Heard Building (built in 1919), Valley National Bank Building (becoming a Hilton Hotel after being vacant for over 25 years), Phoenix Public Market, the Desoto, Roosevelt Row Buildings, and the Newton (a bit uptown, formerly Beefeater’s Restaurant –now houses a bookstore, plant shop, and restaurant).

I may be biased, but I believe that the restoration of the Orpheum (now a jewel of Downtown Phoenix) provided the example of what can happen when preservation is done with care and a vision for the future.



Phoenix Ghost Tours – Search for the paranormal at the Orpheum Theatre. The tours take about an hour and will visit the entire building, including the stage, in a search for spirits and emanations. Tours take place on October 28-31 beginning at 6pm. Visit our website for more information.


What's Coming Up at the Orpheum - Now & Then


October 13 - Free Tours Noon & 1pm

October 15-16 - Phoenix Symphony 7:30pm “Halloween @ Hogwarts”

October 17 - Catholic Diocese of Phoenix Concert 5:00

October 18 - Silent Movie “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” w/John Barrymore 2:30

October 23 - Chris Hardwick 8:00

October 25 - Sufjan Stevens 7:30

October 27 - Free Public Tours Noon & 1pm

October 28 – 31 - Orpheum Ghost Tours starting @ 6:00

November 4 - Chris Cornell 7:30

November 10 - Free Public Tours Noon & 1pm

November 24 - Free Public Tours Noon & 1pm

November 27 - Theater League presents “Cirque Holidaze” 7:30

November 28 - Theater League presents “Cirque Holidaze” 2 & 7:30


It’s Déjà Vu all over again!

Two very similar headlines, but written almost 70 years apart! The first appeared in the Arizona Republican on January 5, 1929. The story underneath the headline told of the “star-studded” list of personal appearances by such stars as Richard Arlen and Reginald Denny. A total of eight pages were filled with tributes to the “Magnificent New Playhouse.”

The second appeared in the Republic on January 29, 1997. The article described a “Night of Dazzle” featuring Carol Channing starring in “Hello Dolly.” The article offered tributes by Betsy Taylor (who appeared at the Orpheum in a Gene Bumph Revue), Carolyn Goldwater (who was at the 1929 opening night), Jana Bommersbach, and Terry Goddard (who was Mayor when Phoenix acquired the Theatre).


Support the Friends

Attention Fry’s Shoppers – Donate to the Friends every time you shop at Fry’s, and it’s free. Fry’s is donating $2 million a year ($500,000/quarter) to Arizona non-profits. To participate, go to and register your Fry’s VIP card, and select Friends of the Orpheum Theatre as your non-profit of choice. Remember: your donation is free, and this program is separate from the gas program. Last year, the Friends received nearly $700 from Fry’s. Also: if you are already a member of the Program you have to re-register in August. Just go to the e-mail location shown above and follow the directions to re-enroll.

Give Kids a Boost – It’s often difficult for young children to see what’s happening on stage because they are “vertically challenged.” Now you can help the Friends solve this problem by purchasing a booster seat. The purchase price is $25, and each seat purchased will be labelled with the name of the purchaser. Visit our website, for more information.

Become a Member of the Friends – Join us as we preserve and illuminate the heritage of the glorious Orpheum Theatre. Visit our website to learn more.


Friends of the Orpheum Theatre

A 501c3 nonprofit whose Mission is:

To support the art, culture, and history of the Orpheum Theatre through outreach, education, and volunteerism.

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