Described as "a veritable house of enchantment" when it opened its doors on Monday, August 21, 1916, the Orpheum Theatre continues to be a place of beauty and a showcase for the arts in Western Illinois.

 

Early Days

 

In 1915, William J. Olson, owner of the Gaiety Theatre at the corner of Cherry and Simmons Streets, engaged the prominent architectural firm of C.W. & George L. Rapp to break ground for the Orpheum Theatre. The Rapp brothers were making waves with their philosophy that a theatre should be "a shrine to democracy where the wealthy rub elbows with the poor."

 

Their free blend of Italian Renaissance and Second Empire style of 19th century France with flourishes of classical, baroque and art nouveau gave the Orpheum an eclectic elegance.  The Orpheum was budgeted at an astonishing $75,000, but when finished wound up costing over $135,000.

 

Built as a vaudeville house, The Orpheum hosted many early stars of stage and screen, including Jack Benny, George Burns, Houdini, Al Jolson, Edgar Bergen, Fanny Brice and Blackstone the Magician.  The Orpheum was the finest in construction, acoustics, and accommodations, but as was the fate of most palaces of the era, the Orpheum's splendor could not withstand the demise of vaudeville and the rising popularity of television.  

 

Recent Memory

By the late 1970s, the Orpheum was part of the Kerasotes movie theater conglomerate. Due to high operating costs, the Orpheum was forced to close in 1982. The theatre was donated by the Kerosotes Company to the Knox County Civic Center Authority and a successful fund drive by the Prairie Players Civic Theatre raised $100,000 to restore the Orpheum to its former glory. A $2-million grant from the State of Illinois made the plan a reality. On May 5, 1988, the curtain rose on the Henry Mancini Orchestra for the re-inauguration gala.

 

Today, the Orpheum continues to reflect its former glory, bringing to the stage a diverse blend of the finest entertainment including Mickey Rooney, Collin Raye, the Doobie Brothers, Glen Miller Orchestra, Bo Diddley, The Acting Company and the Russian National Ballet companies. The theatre is also home to many local performing arts and non-profit organizations that bring music, movies, dance and theatre to our stage.

 

MAJOR MOMENTS IN ORPHEUM THEATRE HISTORY

 

1916
Orpheum Theatre opens its doors August 21 for two vaudeville shows at 2:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.  Matinee Tickets Prices:  10 cents for the Balcony, 25 cents for the Main Floor and 35 cents for Mezzanine Box Seats.  Night Show Ticket Prices:  10 cents for the Gallery (standing room only), 25 cents for the Balcony, 35 cents for the Main Floor and 50 cents for Mezzanine Box Seats.  (35 cents in 1916 translates to about $8 in 2016)

 

1925

Piano is replaced by three (3) manual Barton Pipe Organs

 

1928

RKO Corporation is formed, takes ownership of the theatre chain

 

1936

First major renovation; 7 center boxes in mezzanine and French doors are removed; air conditioning is installed

 

1976

Orpheum Theatre named among buildings in the Galesburg Historic District, which appears on the National Register of Historic Places

 

1978

Kerasotes Theatres purchases the Orpheum for use as a movie theatre

 

1982

Orpheum forced to close due to high operating costs

 

1987

Second major restoration project begins

 

1988

Orpheum reopens in May after $2.5 million renovation with a magnificent concert by the Henry Mancini Orchestra

 

1988

Knox County Civic Center Authority is created to oversee theatre operations; Prairie Players Civic Theatre provides managerial oversight

 

2000

City of Galesburg grants 2% of tourism Hotel/Motel tax - up to $100,000 per year - to the Orpheum

 

2005

The Orpheum Theatre - in partnership with Galesburg School District 205 - formally organizes the Lights! Camera! Learn! program which introduces students of all ages to the world of performing arts.

 

2006

The Orpheum Theatre launches its Red Carpet Series bringing world-class entertainment to its stage each season

 

2006

Orpheum Theatre receives 501c3 not-for-profit status

 

2007

Galesburg City Council lifts $100,000 cap on Orpheum Theatre's hotel/motel tax proceeds.  Orpheum granted full 2% of tax annually

 

2013

Lights! Camera! Learn! is renamed YES! - Short for Youth Entertainment Series, and begins an extensive focus on entertaining and educational performances.

 

2014

The Red Carpet Series begins to program from August to July to better meet industry standards.  

 

2016

The Orpheum Theatre celebrates her 100th birthday!

2017

The Orpheum Theatre begins a wealth of improvements due largely to the success of its Centennial Cappital Campaign.

2018

The Red Carpet Series is retired along with season ticket sales.  The series is then replaced with The Orpheum Theatre Presents, which announces Orpheum shows three to four months out, in an effort to book bigger names and offer reasonably priced tickets.

The Orpheum Theatre
57 South Kellogg Street
Galesburg, IL  61401

Call us during office hours
309.342.2299

Box Office Hours
Tuesday - Friday, 10am-5pm

The Box Office opens 1 hour prior to every ticketed performance

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© 2018 by The Orpheum Theatre