Orpheum Theatre

216 State Street,
Madison, WI 53703

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Showing 26 - 50 of 50 comments

tmsenzig on November 26, 2006 at 8:27 pm

There was an article in the Wisconsin State Journal about potentially relighting the landmark Orpheum sign which towers over State Street. The estimated cost was given to be about $200,000.

Trolleyguy on November 21, 2006 at 7:42 pm

To help relight the marquee, the Orpheum will be hosting an advanced presentation of the new WB movie, “We Are Marshall.” Proceeds from this will be put toward refurbishing the sign to its former glory. Details are on the official website above.

dlroth on October 25, 2006 at 8:40 am

Lost Memory. Can you pleasse email me at I’m putting together a fundraiser to relight the Orpheum marquee and would love to use your picture.

kencmcintyre on August 12, 2006 at 10:08 am

This must have been close to the opening in 1927:

kencmcintyre on August 12, 2006 at 10:00 am

The MGM traveling theater in 1933:

kencmcintyre on August 12, 2006 at 9:22 am

Here is a 1939 photo showing the Orpheum and the Capitol:

kencmcintyre on August 12, 2006 at 9:19 am

I thought this photo was interesting as it shows the theater and its surroundings in 1941:

kencmcintyre on August 11, 2006 at 3:38 pm

There are some nice photos on this page:

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on August 10, 2006 at 4:31 pm

The official web site listed above now has a great photo gallery section on it. Well worth a few minutes to check out.

Hal on April 12, 2006 at 7:26 am

Someone mentioned the vertical sign not beint lit, sorry, can’t just flip a switch! As much as it would be wonderful to light it up, the electrical system is long gone. It used to have bulbs and chasers all the way around it but they were removed many “moons ago”. There was an estimate made once upon a time to relamp the sign (I was a projectionist there years ago) and as I recall the cost was unbelievable!! Having worked in the building for awhile, I’m amazed it’s still open, there are no such things as “little problems” in an old building like this! And the “fixes” arn’t cheap either! For what it’s worth, the Kimball pipe organ that used to be here was removed by Marty Dohm years ago, he installed it in his home in the Madison area. After Marty sold his home the organ went into storage where he managed to keep it “sort of playable”, the organ is now installed in the Weill Center up in Sheboygan, WI where it sounds great! If you are a theatre organ buff, I highly recommend checking it out!

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on February 11, 2006 at 3:30 pm

About five years ago I was up in Madison. I had time on my hands and went to see an obscure foreign film at the Orpheum. I had a similar experience to that mentioned above: all auditorium lights off and me alone in that huge balcony. I left thinking that the Orpheum’s days must be numbered. Sounds like their business plan is passing the test of time, which is great news.

Trolleyguy on November 19, 2005 at 5:54 am

This week, the Orpheum is showing a first-run, non-art house film, “Walk the Line,” the Johnny Cash biopic. Given its proximity to the newly restored and opened Capitol Theater and Overture Center just a block up the street, there might be enough traffic generated to provide an audience for mainstream films again.

Downtown Madison is transforming into a major destination again, with new upscale housing and expanded parking in the plans.

unknownnews on November 19, 2005 at 5:47 am

The Orpheum is a beautiful palace on State Street, in pretty good condition. The huge vertical ‘Orpheum’ sign either doesn’t light any more, or the power is too expensive to click it on at night, as it’s always dark, but the main marquee hovering over the sidewalk can’t be missed.

The theater is closed Mondays, but screens modern art movies Tuesday-Sunday, with weekend matinees.

The staff is friendly, and patrons are allowed full access to the two balcony entrances, both leading to the same swooping seating section. In recent shows I’ve attended, almost all the house lights have been dark during the film, which gives the balcony an eerie “suspended in space” feeling.

The restrooms are huge, and down a long flight of stairs to the basement.

The theater also hosts concerts, which must pay the bills, because even on Friday night movies at the Orpheum I’ve never seen more than a few dozen other customers.

The lobby has been converted to a full service restaurant and bar. Dinner is a little pricey for us, in the $10 range, but they serve breakfast on Saturday mornings, and you can get a good omelet with hash browns for $7.

The theater’s second screen is in a separate space connected by a long narrow hallway. It’s charm-free, but serviceable.

atmos on June 27, 2005 at 2:30 am

I think you would call the style of this theatre French Renaissance.

William on April 20, 2005 at 11:56 am

The Orpheum Theatre opened on March 31st 1927.

AndrewWillenson on April 14, 2005 at 12:01 pm

I was in the lobby of the theater last week. It appeared very nice. Next time I am in Madison I will eat at the restaurant in the lobby.

State Street in Madison is booming. That is undoubtedly one reason Madison still has a major movie palace. The neighborhood really cooperated with the theater itself this time.

Whomever has been vandalizing the Orpheum is a terrible person. That is all that can be said.


Andrew N. Willenson

bellita on March 31, 2005 at 6:18 pm

I don’t remember there being a restaurant in the lobby when I attended. This would have been mid 90s. I do remember it having a gold/cream monochromatic color scheme. I saw, among other movies, “Secrets and Lies” there. Can anyone verify/embellish on my vague memory of the interior?

Trolleyguy on January 30, 2005 at 8:02 am

The Orpheum reopened Friday, January 28, 2005. The fire damage has been repaired.

Movies are being screened again and the restaurant in the lobby is doing business. Great place for lunch, which I have there at least twice a week.

JimRankin on January 5, 2005 at 2:40 pm

Madison, WI

Arson damages Rapp & Rapp’s ORPHEUM

After weeks of investigation, the capitol city of Wisconsin has determined that its ORPHEUM theatre was indeed a victim of arson, not once, but at least twice, and a third time is suspected. Read the account here from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
View link

Film reports were shown on Milwaukee’s WTMJ-4, channel 4 TV, which showed only the exterior of the closed theatre with notices on the doors promising reopening.

The Fire Marshall asks for any tips and a reward of $5,000 is being offered.

The theatre is profiled at: /theaters/233/

It would seem that not everyone appreciates theatres, but at least most Wisconsinites must like them else a city 80 miles from Madison wouldn’t have run the story, possibly to be repeated at later broadcasts. (The story originated with the Wis. State Journal, but I couldn’t find it there.)

bkazmer on January 12, 2004 at 3:57 pm

I have a couple of very nice recent photos of this theater.

wass2001 on January 5, 2004 at 2:06 pm

In addition to showing movies, it still houses plays and live concerts. There is also the Lobby Restaurant, allowing eating in the grand lobby. The lobby, mezzanine and theatres are available for rent for private functions also. Architects were Rapp and Rapp. Many photos of pre and post opening in the 1920’s are at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

ScottThom on November 2, 2001 at 11:37 am

Approximately 1800 seats in theater 1. 350 seats in theater 2 (called the Stage Door).