The very first Orpheum was a saloon concert hall opened on June 30, 1887 in San Francisco by Gustave Walters. He named it after the Greek god Orpheus, who sang and played his lyre so beautifully that wild beasts were spellbound. Vancouver's first, short-lived Orpheum was on Westminster Avenue, now Main Street, and was an independent theatre that opened on October 3, 1904, but stayed in business for only a few months.
The second Orpheum Theatre was run by the Sullivan and Considine vaudeville circuit based in Seattle. Timothy D. Sullivan and John W. Considine began by gaining control of the Savoy Theatre, then known as the Grand, on Cordova Street, but it proved to be too small. Their next project was the People's Theatre, located on the northwest corner of Pender and Howe Streets. Originally known as the Alhambra when it was built in 1899, Sullivan and Considine converted it in 1906 into the city's second Orpheum Theatre, with fold-up theatre seats, a uniformed staff and seating capacity for 1,200.
It was here, during the week of April 8, 1912, that Charlie Chaplin made an appearance with Fred Karno's Company of English Comedians, two years before he began making the short slapstick comedies that launched his film career.
The second Orpheum closed when Sullivan and Considine bought the Vancouver Opera House from the C.P.R., which then became the city's third Orpheum in 1913, sometimes called the New Orpheum. It would go on to become the Vancouver, the Lyric, the International Cinema, and again the Lyric before it was torn down in 1969 to make way for Eaton's Pacific Centre department store, now the home of Sears.
At some point before the end of 1914, Sullivan and Considine's holdings came under the control of the Chicago-based Orpheum vaudeville circuit. The fourth and present Orpheum Theatre, in the 800 block on Granville, was built to the specifications of the Orpheum circuit. Also sometimes known as the New Orpheum, when it opened on November 8, 1927 it was one of the finest vaudeville theatres in North America. The Orpheum still ranks high among Vancouver theatres for its excellent acoustics and opulent beauty. (next page)
©2006, Dance Collection Danse