On November 8, the Orpheum Theatre celebrated its 85th anniversary as one of the City of Vancouver’s most important cultural and performance venues and a highly valued historical place for Vancouver citizens.
Also known as the “Grand Old Lady of Granville Street” because of its location, age and splendour, the City of Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre opened its doors and had the first performance on November 7, 1927, but the official opening took place the next day. At the time of its inauguration, the Orpheum Theatre became Vancouver's largest vaudeville house, providing a mix of live and movie entertainment.
The Orpheum was designed by architect Benjamin Marcus Priteca. Priteca was born in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1909, he came to Montreal, but his final destination was the United States. Priteca lived in Seattle where he died of cancer in 1971, at the age of 81. During his long career, the prestigious architect designed dozens of entertainment halls in the main cities of California, Oregon and Washington states. He also designed theatres in Memphis, Kansas City, Fort Worth and Salt Lake City. In 1926, he was in Vancouver to review the bids submitted by local construction firms for the construction of The Orpheum.
At the time of its opening, the splendidly ornamented hall was the biggest theatre in Canada with 3,000 seats. Several costly paintings and hangings were purchased in Europe, and a gigantic chandelier was imported from Czechoslovakia. Priteca referred to the elaborate style of the theatre as “conservative Spanish Renaissance”. Two other theaters designed by Priteca in Vancouver, the historic Pantages Theaters number 1 and 2, were demolished in 2011 and 1967, respectively. Thus, the Orpheum is the only surviving Canadian theatre designed by Priteca. Currently the theatre seats 2,688 patrons.