Orpheum Theatre

102 S. 4th Street,
Clarksburg, WV 26301

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 10, 2018 at 3:18 pm

After Jack Marks lost the lease on the original Orpheum in, the house was taken over by Claude Robinson. Marks took over the former Bijou Theatre on Main Street and renamed it the Orpheum, leading to a contretemps with Robinson, as noted in this item from The Moving Picture World of September 15, 1923:

“The identity of two picture theatres is involved in an Injunction proceeding instituted by Jack Marks of Clarksburg, W. Va., proprietor of one of the theatres before Judge Maxwell of the Harrison County Circuit Court. Marks asks that Claude Robinson, proprietor of one theatre and lessee of two others, be restrained from using the name ‘Orpheum’ for a theatre at West Pike and Fourth streets. Marks for several years held a lease on the latter house as the Orpheum. Recently, when his lease expired he took over the Bijou Theatre at West Main street and changed the name to the Orpheum. He took the theatre name along with him, but it is contended by Robinson that the old Orpheum should retain its name. It is closed temporarily but will be reopened in a short time.”
The court’s decision went against Marks, as revealed by this item from MPW of March 8, 1924:
“The Orpheum Theatre is the name of the building located at the corner of Fourth and Pike streets, Clarksburg, W. Va., and this name will remain, according to a decision just handed down by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Jack Marks, former lessee of the theatre, and who now operates a house on West Main street, sought to enjoin Frank Moore, owner, and Claude Robinson, lessee, from using the name of Orpheum Theatre, but the restraining order was denied him both in the circuit court of Harrison county and the state supreme court.”
Marks was eventually able to use the name Orpheum for the former Bijou, but not until the original Orpheum had been closed and its building converted into offices.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 9, 2018 at 6:46 pm

I believe the seating capacity of 350 we list for this Orpheum was taken from a later FDY and was actually the capacity of the second Orpheum, aka Marks' Orpheum, which operated until 1952. The 1929 FDY gives the Orpheum a capacity of 1,400, which itself is probably a gross exaggeration. The 1914 edition of Gus Hill’s National Theatrical Directory lists the Orpheum with 700 seats, which is more plausible.

1929 was the original Orpheum’s last year of operation, after which the building was converted into offices for the Monongahela Power Company. Nevertheless, FDY continued to list the Orpheum with 1,400 seats as late as 1932. They finally corrected the error in 1933, listing the second Orpheum with 400 seats.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 9, 2018 at 4:52 pm

Clarksburg’s Orpheum was not part of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. The Orpheum circuit was primarily a western operation, while the east was dominated by the Keith-Albee circuit, with which the Orpheum circuit eventually merged. When the Orpheum circuit was founded in California in the 1890s, Orpheum was already a fairly common name for theaters, and the circuit was unable to trademark the name.

The Moller organ installed at the Orpheum in 1915 might have been a replacement for a piano or perhaps a Fotoplayer orchestrion, both of which were frequently used in early movie theaters.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on December 30, 2015 at 9:02 pm

In 1915 the Orpheum got a 2-manual, 8-rank, pipe organ built by M.P. Moller, their opus number 1954, for $3,250. That suggests the possibility that movies were not on the bill when the theatre opened. Orpheum was originally a vaudeville company of course. Or possibly this was an upgrade from a smaller instrument. Who’s to say at this point?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 29, 2015 at 12:41 pm

At this link is a clearer version of the early postcard photo of the Orpheum I linked to in the previous comment (click photo to enlarge.)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 29, 2015 at 12:12 pm

The text above a picture of the Orpheum about halfway down this web page says that the house opened on May 1, 1913.

In its early years, the Orpheum was operated by Jack Marks, who also operated Clarksburg’s first movie house, the Star Theatre, and later opened Moore’s Opera House. From 1922 until closing, the Orpheum was operated by Claude Robinson, of Robinson’s Grand Theatre.

After giving up the Orpheum, Marks took over an early house on West Main Street, originally called the Odeon and later the Bijou, and renamed it Marks' Orpheum, which he operated until his death in 1952, so Clarksburg had two houses with the Orpheum name from 1922 until 1929. Marks also built the Ritz Theatre in 1927.

The last photo on the page I linked to shows the Ritz, directly across Pike Street from the Monongahela Power Company Building which has a parapet identical to the Orpheum’s in the earlier photo. As the photo dates from the late 1940s or early 1950s, I believe the power company building must have been the Orpheum building remodeled, in which case the theater was not demolished in 1929, but merely dismantled and the power company offices built in its shell.