Celebrating 100 years
The Orpheum Theater in St. Louis is a testament to the city’s vaudeville past of the turn of the century. The grand opening was on Labor Day (September 3rd) 1917, it is currently downtown’s most sumptuous and voluptuous Beaux Arts building.
It was constructed by local self-made millionaire Louis A. Cella and designed by architect Albert Lansburgh with the ornate sculptures made by Leo Lentelli which still stands in its magnificence today.
A technological advancement of its time, the theater featured modern ventilation systems that circulated air, heating, fine acoustics throughout the venue and most up to date electrical for lighting equipment.
Warner Brothers Movie Theater
As vaudeville declined and motion picture became all the rage, Warner Brothers utilized the Orpheum as a movie theater in the mid 30’s after being dark and used as a stock playhouse for many years. The theater was upgraded with a large movie screen and film projector. The movie theater ran up until the 1940s.
Following the Warner Brothers movie house, Loew’s Inc. leased the theater from 1943 until the spring of 1960 when it closed.
With over 60 years of use, the theater had a 6 month long restoration job. Lights were upgraded, seating repaired, painting, dressing rooms were remodeled. Mirrors and fixtures from the original American Theater on 7th and Market were installed. Burnt-out light bulbs in the newly painted pendant were replaced. Scaffolding 5 stories high had to be erected to paint fixtures on the impressive dome. The lights in the dome had not been used for years when a movie house.
The Orpheum later reopened as the American Theater on October 10, 1960. The old American Theater at Grand and Olive was renamed to Loew’s Mid-City and was being used as a movie house. The American Theater maintained being a venue staple for concerts and high profile events in downtown St. Louis for more than 3 decades. The theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and remains a city treasure.
The Roberts Orpheum Theater
In 2003, local businessmen Michael and Steve Roberts reverted back to the original name “Orpheum” as the Roberts Orpheum Theater. The theater underwent additional renovations with many modern upgrades. The side entrance was fully restored by Superior Waterproofing with almost 60% of the original tiles, including the most elaborate being salvaged. The remaining statues were manufactured by Boston Valley Terra Cotta.
It was reopened in 2005 to the public and the stage once again came to life with high profile concerts and events.
Jubilee World Inc. later acquired the theater at the end of 2016 with plans to finish final restorations reopening the theater once again as “The Orpheum“, celebrating the history of St. Louis for the public to tour and experience events. With the help of previous owners over the years who have restored sections of the theater, Jubilee World is making plans to finish the final restorations. Plans and a date to reopen the theater has not yet been announced while restoration continues.