On September 4, 1922, the Orpheum theater on North Broadway opened its doors, introducing a new era of entertainment to the local community. The theater boasted a seating capacity of 1,800 people when it first debuted. The Wichita Eagle, in an article published on August 13, 1922, highlighted the theater’s features and mentioned Edward Raymond as the original manager.
“The color scheme of the interior is considered one of the distinct features,” reported the Wichita Eagle on August 20. The article further described how the colors “boldly reflected in the sunlight but softened and blended harmoniously under the glow of colored lights prevalent throughout the theater. This unique color scheme was the first of its kind in the territory.”
For admission, the Wichita Eagle article stated that tickets cost 55 cents for the lower floor, 40 cents for the mezzanine floor, and 25 cents for the balcony seats.
The inaugural show at the Orpheum consisted of approximately an hour of films accompanied by Lloyd Hutson playing the pipe organ. Following the films, five acts of vaudeville entertainment took the stage, with the orchestra directed by Francis Eddler, recognized as one of the country’s finest “pit” leaders. Eddler’s wife was a Russian dancer of “exceptional talent who had toured worldwide.”
Over the years, the Orpheum evolved and underwent various changes. It operated as a movie house until November 1976 when it ceased regular film screenings. However, the theater continued to host occasional concerts and even ventured into screening pornographic films.
Recognizing its historical significance, the Orpheum was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. In 1992, a non-profit organization assumed ownership, initiating renovations and reviving the building as a venue for shows.
Beyond its historical and architectural importance, the Orpheum holds a special place in my heart as it is where my parents first met, you can read their story here: “An Usher and a Gentleman” and the follow up story, “The Return of the Usher.”
Check out some of the other theaters of Wichita in 1974.