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Categories: Theaters

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Downtown Boston's Legendary--And Only--Rock & Pop Concert Venue

The Orpheum was built on the site of the Boston Music Hall in 1852. In 1900 the building was nearly gutted and rebuilt within the old walls for conversion into a vaudeville theatre. It reopened on February 12, 1905 as the Empire Theatre. When Percy Williams took over the theatre on September 3, 1906 it was renamed the Orpheum. It was then sold to Marcus Loew in 1910. Loew bought additional land and hired architect Thomas Lamb to design a new theatre. The new theatre was designed in the Adam style with expanded capacity. The proscenium arch was made of golden hued glass and illuminated from behind.

In January 1916 the theatre reopened hosting a combination of vaudeville and film. Vaudeville was replaced in the 1930's with first-run double features. In 1965 film distributors dropped the exclusive first run policy for downtown theatres. This was a tough time for the Orpheum because it then had to compete with nearby theatres for first-run films. Loew's abandoned the Orpheum Theatre on January 18, 1972. It was renamed the Aquarius and was once again a home for live performances. In May of 1974, Sarah Caldwell moved the Opera Company in and renamed it the Orpheum. The Washington Street entrance no longer exists. It now plays host to a succession of Live Performances booked by companies such as Tea Party Concerts and Live Nation.