A true gem of a building, and registered as an official San Francisco Historical Landmark, Orpheum Theatre was designed by prestigious theatre architect B. Marcus Priteca, as a commission for Seattle vaudeville theatre owner Alexander Pantages. Pantages was keen for the theatre to give the impression of opulence, without the accompanying budget. “Any damn fool,” Pantages is quoted as saying, “Can make a place look like a million dollars by spending a million dollars, but it’s not everybody who can do the same thing with half a million.”

Orpheum Theater San Francisco

The building’s stunning interior features a vaulted ceiling, while the beautiful facade was patterned after a 12th-century French cathedral. Originally, the theatre featured vaudeville, silent films, motion pictures, musical comedy and other theatrical entertainment, before becoming the home of travelling Broadway shows.

Seating Capacity

The Orpheum currently seats 2,203 guests.

History

Vaudeville circuit

The Orpheum Theatre San Francisco has a rich history dating back to the Roaring Twenties. Opening its doors on the 1st September 1926, the Orpheum was originally the hotspot for vaudeville performances. The venue was part of a network of theaters, known as a vaudeville circuit, where performers could travel and showcase their talents across different cities. During this period, the Orpheum Theatre hosted a variety of acts, including comedians, musicians, dancers, and magicians.

Movie Palace

With the decline of vaudeville in the late twenties and the rise of the motion picture industry, the Orpheum quickly made a name for itself as the premier movie house in San Francisco. During this Golden Era, they screened a variety of films, ranging from silent films to the early talkies.

Restoration & Renovation

In the late seventies, the Orpheum Theatre San Francisco underwent a makeover. They aimed to preserve its historic charm, while also jazzing up facilities to host modern Broadway-style shows. The goal was to blend the old with the new, making it a spot for both history buffs and fans of contemporary live performances. The successful efforts even landed the theater a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 by the San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board!

Architecture

Located at the corner of Market Street and 8th Street, this 2,200-seat theater was patterned after a 12th-century French cathedral. Designed by the infamous theater architect B. Marcus Priteca, the Orpheum is a prime example of the Beaux-Arts design style. The exterior of the venue features classical elements such as columns and a flashy marquee. Step inside, and you’re welcomed with ornate plasterwork, gold accents, and chic moldings.

Broadway

Since its rebirth, the Orpheum has been a bustling hub for live performances. The theater soon became the go-to spot for touring productions. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical “The Phantom of the Opera,” Disney’s spectacular production of “The Lion King,” and Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Rent” took center stage, making the Orpheum a key player in San Francisco’s entertainment scene. But that’s not all, this world-class venue has also played host to the epic musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Misérables,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Cats,” as well as the sultry and jazzy “Chicago” production – just to name a few!