Originally known as the Hennepin, the Orpheum
Theatre opened on October 16, 1921. Located at
910 Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota
the theatre was designed by the Milwaukee firm
of Kirchoff & Rose and cost 1 million dollars
to build. Over 70,000 guests came to watch the
Marx Brothers perform during opening week.
Throughout the early 1920’s,
the Orpheum was a major venue for many variety
show type entertainers including Jack Benny, Burns
& Allen and Fanny Brice. The best seats in
the house sold for 47 cents, and children's tickets
were only 9 cents. The Orpheum also featured an
unheard of playroom and baby-sitting services
for small children on the first floor mezzanine
lobby. In the late 20’s, the Orpheum easily
changed with the times and became one of the major
cinema houses in Minneapolis
In 1940, Gone with the Wind premiered at the Orpheum.
On opening night moviegoers formed a solid line
that extended out the doors, down Hennepin Avenue
and around the corner onto 9th Street. For three
full weeks, the theatre sold out every showing.
It was one of the most successful shows ever at
In 1988, the Minneapolis Community
Development Agency (MCDA) purchased the Orpheum
Theatre for 1.4 million dollars from singer Bob
Dylan and his brother. The Dylan’s had owned
the theatre for four years, but were uninterested
in footing the bill for much needed renovations.
The MCDA, which owns both the Historic
Orpheum and State Theatres, financed a $10 million
restoration and expansion of the theatre. In actuality,
theatergoers paid for the restoration of the 2,600
seat showplace through a historic restoration
fee on all State and Orpheum theatre tickets.
The MCDA began the renovation project
by extending the stage almost 20 feet in order
to accommodate the newer elaborate Broadway shows.
The theatre was then decked out in deep Victorian
colors to match the original design and the art
deco marquee was expertly restored & reinstalled.
A 15 foot high, 2,000 pound chandelier made of
brass & Italian crystal was installed in the
unique domed ceiling, which is really lined with
over 30,000 leaves of silver. All of the other
chandeliers in the house and lobbies are antiques
salvaged from a 1920's theatre.
Unexpected architectural discoveries
were made while renovating the lobby areas, including
6 Pompeiian friezes previously hidden under velour
curtains and fake window grids and even a false
wall. The mural on the ceiling above the stage
was added after the discovery of a black &
white photo of the original theatre. The restored
Orpheum theatre reopened in 1993. The first concert
performance was by Heart and the first Broadway
production was Miss Saigon.
The Orpheum is proud to have seen
the origination of a number of productions, including
Victor/Victoria, Beauty & the Beast and the
pre-Broadway premiere of Disney's The Lion King,
and the national tour of Elton John and Tim Rice's
The Orpheum seats approx 1500 on
the main floor, with an additional 1100 seats
in the three level balcony. It's a finely refurbished
theatre, with comfortable seating and lovely decor.
Both acoustics and sight lines are outstanding,
although the back of the balcony still seems a
long way from the action. About the only drawback
is the limited lobby, which gets so crowded at
intermissions of sold-out shows that many choose
to stay by their seats.
While the Orpheum was, for decades,
one of the most popular places for a concert,
it really hit its stride after the remarkable
90’s renovation. Restored to an elegance
and beauty before only imagined, the Historic
Orpheum Theatre immediately became the favored
stop for touring Broadway blockbusters. This elegantly
restored theater successfully hosts Broadway hits
and rock superstars with equal ease. Its great
location in the Hennepin Theatre district and
ability to attract big name shows makes the Orpheum
one of the most sought-after tickets in town!