Orpheum Theatre

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Orpheum Theatre The Orpheum Theatre, originally known as the Hennepin Theatre, opened in 1921 and seats 2,579. Considered a "junior" Orpheum to an older Orpheum Theatre on Seventh Street, it was designed by the Milwaukee firm of Kirchoff and Rose in a Beaux Arts style. Its first performers included the Marx Brothers with more than 70,000 guests attending the opening week run. Billed as the largest vaudeville house in the country when opened, it became a major outlet for such entertainers as Jack Benny, George Burns and Fanny Brice. The Orpheum featured a playroom and day care off the mezzanine lobby and backstage had eight floors of dressing rooms. As vaudeville declined in the 1930s-’40s, the Orpheum became one of Minneapolis’s major cinema houses, with "Gone with the Wind" in 1940 selling out every show for three weeks. The theatre also hosted big bands including Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Count Basie. In 1959, Ted Mann, owner of six other downtown Minneapolis theatres including the Pantages, bought the Orpheum and brought in Broadway touring productions including My Fair Lady and Fiddler on the Roof. Movies also continued to be shown, with the 1965 James Bond film "Thunderball" shattering box office records. As a movie house, the Orpheum set a Minneapolis record for first run engagements of Best Picture Oscar winners–nine in all–including "From Here to Eternity" in 1953 and "The Godfather" in 1972. RENOVATION 1988-PRESENT In 1988, the Minneapolis Community Development Agency purchased the Orpheum from singer Bob Dylan and his brother, David Zimmerman. Restoration began in 1993 and, to accommodate elaborate Broadway productions, the Orpheum stage was extended almost 20 feet, with the back wall of the theatre painstakingly removed brick by brick. To accomodate this expansion, 10th Street was re-routed away from the rear of the theatre. Unexpected architectural discoveries made during the renovation of the lobby included six Pompeiian friezes previously hidden under velour curtains, fake window grids and a false wall. At 15 feet tall and weighing 2,000 pounds, the chandelier in the main auditorium is the theatre centerpiece. Following a $10 million restoration, the Orpheum re-opened in December 1993 with a concert by the band Heart and in January 1994 with the Broadway touring production of Miss Saigon. Productions that have originated at the Orpheum include Victor/Victoria, the world premiere of Disney’s The Lion King and the national tour premiere of Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA. Recent Broadway shows include Jersey Boys, The Phantom of the Opera and Wicked. Hennepin Theatre Trust is now the owner and operator of this magnificent structure.