LOOKING BACK 1921–1987
The Orpheum Theatre, originally known as the Hennepin, opened in 1921 and seats 2,579. Designed by the Milwaukee firm of Kirchoff and Rose in a Beaux Arts style, its first performers included the Marx Brothers with more than 70,000 guests attending the opening week run. Billed as the largest vaudeville house in the country when opened, it became a major outlet for such entertainers as Jack Benny, George Burns and Fanny Brice. The Orpheum featured a playroom and day care off the mezzanine lobby and backstage had eight floors of dressing rooms. As vaudeville declined in the 1930s-’40s, the Orpheum became one of Minneapolis’s major cinema houses, with Gone with the Wind in 1940 selling out every show for three weeks. It also hosted big bands including Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Count Basie. In 1959, Ted Mann, owner of six other downtown Minneapolis theatres including the Pantages, bought the Orpheum and brought in touring productions including My Fair Lady and Fiddler on the Roof. Movies also continued to be shown, with the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball shattering box office records. The Orpheum set a Minneapolis record for first run engagements of Best Picture Oscar winners–nine in all–including From Here to Eternity in 1953 and The Godfather in 1972.
In 1988, the Minneapolis Community Development Agency purchased the Orpheum from singer Bob Dylan and his brother, David Zimmerman, who owned the theatre. Restoration began in 1993 and, to accommodate elaborate Broadway productions, the Orpheum stage was extended almost 20 feet, with the back wall of the theatre painstakingly removed brick by brick. Unexpected architectural discoveries made during the renovation of the lobby included six Pompeiian friezes previously hidden under velour curtains, fake window grids and a false wall. The chandelier in the main auditorium is the theatre centerpiece. It is 15 feet high and weighs 2,000 pounds. Following a $10 million restoration, the Orpheum re-opened in December 1993 with a concert by Heart and in January 1994 with the Broadway production of Miss Saigon. Productions that have originated at the Orpheum include Victor/Victoria, the pre-Broadway world premiere of Disney’s The Lion King and the national tour premiere of Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA. Hennepin Theatre Trust is now the owner and operator of this magnificent structure.
Experience Theatre History
Tours are open to the public!
Take a walking tour of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s State, Orpheum or Pantages Theatres! Experienced guides highlight architecture, historical facts and tell stories about the venues that anchored the region’s “Theatre Row.” Each walking tour gives access to the theatres’ interiors as well as details and a fascinating historical perspective that patrons never experience when attending an event. The tours give theatre patrons, historians, students and others a personal introduction to these historic gems. Guides spotlight architectural, historic and fun facts about these landmarks, providing an insider’s view to these majestic venues.
Did you get engaged at one of the theatres? Were you an usher? A performer? A construction worker? A stagehand? The Orpheum, State, Pantages and Century Theatres have a long and colorful history dating back to the early 1900s. If you, or someone you know, has a personal story or interesting anecdote related to these fine venues, we would love to hear it.
Hennepin Theatre Trust is in the process of collecting and preserving these valuable stories to help us capture the rich history of these theatres so that we can share them with future generations. We plan to capture these stories to share with the public through written materials and a planned historical documentary about the theaters.
Are you looking for a premier Minneapolis location to hold your event? The Orpheum Theatre is well-known, extremely well-equipped and has efficient, friendly and knowledgeable staff. Our convenient downtown location also offers plenty of nearby parking. Please visit our Theatre Rental page for more information on hosting a performance or event in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.
Orpheum Theatre Availability
For current rate information please contact:
Director of Booking
Email Rick Hansen