The Orpheum Theatre

601 Smithe St Vancouver

VAMONDE Vancouver
Written By VAMONDE Vancouver

The Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum is a theatre and music located on Granville Street near Smithe Street in Vancouver's downtown core. The interior of the theatre was featured prominently in the award-winning 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica, where it is dressed to portray a heavenly opera house.


Designed by Scottish architect Marcus Priteca, the theatre officially opened on November 8, 1927, as a vaudeville house, but it hosted its first shows the previous day. The old Orpheum, at 761 Granville Street, was renamed the Vancouver Theatre and later the Lyric before it closed for demolition in 1969 to make way for the first phase of the Pacific Centre project. The New Orpheum was the biggest theatre in Canada when it opened in 1927, with three thousand seats and cost $1.25 million to construct. Following the end of vaudeville's heyday in the early 1930s, the Orpheum became primarily a movie house under Famous Players ownership, although it would continue to host live events on occasion.

The Protest That Saved the Theatre

In 1973, for economic reasons, Famous Players decided to gut the inside of the Orpheum and change it into a multiplex. A "Save the Orpheum" public protest and fundraising campaign was launched and the Orpheum was saved. On March 19, 1974, the City of Vancouver bought the theatre for $7.1 million, with $3.1 million coming from the city itself, and $1.5 million from each of the provincial and federal governments. The Orpheum closed on November 23, 1975, and a renovation and restoration were done by the architectural company Thomson, Berwick, Pratt and Partners. It re-opened on April 2, 1977, and has since been the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

National Designation

The theatre was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1979. The Orpheum's present neon sign was installed during the 1970s, donated to the theatre by Jim Pattison - a Canadian business magnate. The theatre and its neon sign have been used as a key location in several episodes of the science-fiction series Battlestar Galactica and Fringe, as well as Highlander: The Series. It was also the location of the filming of the Dan Mangan documentary What Happens Next? by Brent Hodge.

Information courtesy of Wikipedia

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The Orpheum Theatre

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