Orphium Theatre

22-24 S. Park Street,
Mansfield, OH 44902

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Orphium Theater Circuit

Architects: Vernon Redding

Functions: Retail

Styles: Spanish Colonial

Previous Names: Orphium Family Theatre, Orphium German Theatre, Orpheum Theatre

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Orphium Theatre

The Orphium Theatre was a short-lived theatre in the May Building in downtown Mansfield, Ohio. The late attorney John M. May’s homestead was replaced by the retail May Building facing Mansfield’s Central Park in 1905. One of its original first-floor businesses was the Orphium Theatre that was part of the fledgling Ohio-based Orphium Theater Circuit of vaudeville. The Mansfield location was one of the first two locations for the circuit prior to its incorporation opening Christmas Day 1905 as the Orphium Family Theatre. Dan Rice’s Educated Pigs were there along with several other acts and the Orphiumscope - featuring illustrated sing-alongs and short-subject films.

The Orphium Circuit inked mostly five-year deals with theatres in Ohio including the existing Lorrain and Mansfield theatres as well as additional Ohio locations in Chillicothe, Bucyrus, Alliance, Xenia, Lima, Portsmouth and Sidney along with two Indiana venues located in Plymouth and Columbus. Within a year of is incorporation, the circuit was fifty percent female owned, rare in theatrical operations. Its marketing approach targeted female theatre goers and associated family audiences. The Mansfield Orphium booked “polite” vaudeville and featured family-friendly films.

The Orphium Circuit began its descent in 1908 but may have continued booking into 1911 before dissolving altogether in 1912. The Mansfield location was renamed Orpheum Theatre from August 29, 1910 to 1914. It reflected changing tastes by progressively showing more films over its short lifecycle. Operating a regional vaudeville circuit with small venues became increasingly challenging and the Orphium Circuit disbanded. It appears that the Orphium Theatre was trying to either make or book synchronized novelty films at the end of its operation with little success. This Mansfield Orphium, indeed, has listings for experimental sound films in 1913 before closing.

The venue reopened one last time, albeit briefly, as the Orphium German Theatre, a live venue with stage plays by the German-American Alliance of Mansfield. But this proved unsuccessful and the theatre’s space in the structure was utilized for other retail purposes. The May Building (22-32 S. Park) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 as one of the city’s last and best examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. It’s well known terra-cotta front survived into the 21st Century looking stylish when viewed with the buff brick façade. Credit architect Vernon Redding for the building’s longevity as a mixed-use building featuring retail on the lower floor and apartments above and a timeless and classy exterior presentation.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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