Orpheum Theatre

12 S. Main Street,
Akron, OH 44308

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Botzum Brothers

Styles: Romanesque Revival

Previous Names: New Orpheum Theater

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The Botzum Brothers launched the new $100,000 Orpheum Theatre at 10-12 S. Main Street in 1914. The Romanesque style theatre was bathed in an era-appropriate rose and ivory color palette. It launched July 29, 1914 with Lillian Gish in “Battle of the Sexes”. The Orpheum Theatre was part of the first era of movie palaces that began pressuring the older nickelodeons in town. The neighboring Bank Theater would be an early casualty.

The Orpheum Theatre was closed on June 12, 1920 for a complete gutting and reworking. It would retain its status as the “A” photoplay house ploughing past the Allen Theatre, Colonial Theatre and the Strand Theatre for top dog status. The New Orpheum Theatre tripled its capacity at its relaunch to 1,500 seats on October 23, 1920 with Dorothy Phillips in “Once to Every Woman” supported by the Lloyd Douglas comedy short, “Dynamite”. It was nicknamed, “The house of Quality”.

The Botzum Theatres Company helped to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Akron with a parade display in 1925 and pictured in photos. The Orpheum Theatre added a WurliTzer Organ (Opus 1296) in 1926 to improve presentations and to compete with the new Palace Theatre which was opening across the street. The Orpheum Theatre stayed a major force in exhibition becoming the first Akron theatre to wire for sound beginning on February 19, 1927 with Vitaphone talking pictures.

Like a lot of silent houses, the Orpheum Theatre’s sound fidelity was perhaps a bit questionable. And new theatres designed for sound began pressuring the aging Orpheum Theatre as it slid into second and later third-run status over the next 25 years. But it held firm watching the neighboring Bank Theatre close and the Botzum’s own Dreamland Theatre shutter on 1929 on the same block. The Orpheum Theatre competed despite being out-maneuvered by the opening of the Palace Theatre (1926) also on the same block with the Forum Theatre beginning in 1937, as well as the Loews Akron Theatre (1929) a block away.

The Orpheum Theatre was refreshed at least once moving it to just under 1,000 seats. It lasted all the way to February 28, 1952 with a double feature of John Wayne in “Lady for a Night” and Kirk Douglas in “Big Carnival” (aka Ace in the Hole). The venue, therefore, did not make it to the widescreen era dying in the early stages of the television age and the onset of suburban movie houses with free parking. The most unbelievable fact about the Orpheum Theatre and its run from 1914 to 1952 was this. The opening manager in 1914 - Albert Ploenes - was officially the venue’s only manager in 38 years. Its only operator was the Botzum Brothers Theatre Circuit. Ploenes would retire at age 80 from Botzum Theatres after 58 years of service.

The Wurlitzer organ that was used in the Orpheum Theatre was relocated twice. The first time was to St. Mary’s Church which used it until 1960. It was then taken to the personal house of Kenneth Shirey which took up a massive space in the household. The City of Akron would buy the Orpheum property that became a retail space. A new Federal Building plan was announced in 1965 that, a year later, took out the block once housing the Orpheum Theatre. It was razed in urban renewal and the project was funded in 1972 and built in 1974.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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