Tour the architectures in the Southwest - Theater - 1 :
Orpheum Theater
(Phoenix, Arizona, USA)

In the Southwest, attractive historical theaters still remain in big cities.

The Orpheum Theater stands quietly among huge skyscrapers in the center of downtown Phoenix.

It was designed by Phoenix-based architect Lescher & Mahoney in the manner of the Spanish Colonial Revival style. It had opened as a vaudeville theater at first and changed into an American movie theater and a Hispanic movie theater afterwards. At last, Phoenix city purchased it and, after the renovation for 13 years, it reopened in 1997. Though the town of Phoenix dramatically changed, this low-rise building has remained anyhow.

The inside of the arches that continue repeatedly and face the street has become a lobby now, but it's said that it was originally a public arcade opened to outdoor and guests who waited for the opening and salesclerks gathered there. The medallions bordering the top of the facade also repeat along the street similarly to the arch and create the exterior appearance of the urban scale. The hexagonal tower rising at the corner of the building must have become a landmark of the intersection at the time of completion.

Now it is overwhelmed by skyscrapers. Furthermore, since there are many architectures of similar color, they are not very conscious of it. However, originally, it must have been designed in consideration with the townscape of Phoenix.

The interior is åcontrived more than the exterior appearance. First of all, when entering the lobby, a guest is welcomed by the twisted columns and the doors with a relief of leaves of the Churriguera style that represents the Spanish Baroque. The sophistication and density of workmanship overwhelm.

The glamor of Baroque, adopted in this theater of the 20th century, creates the adrenaline effect to enhance the mood and raises the expectation to the theater.

When opening the door, the auditoriumu hall appeared and it was as if I had got into the dream. I should have entered in the dark indoor from the lobby full of bright natural light. However, beyond the door was the outdoors and the evening highlands spread.

The ceiling is dusky, the sky's hem is dyed indigo, leaving a little brightness. On the uppermost platform, a colonial mansion with arches surrounds the audience in horseshoe shape and its wings lead to mountains. The mountains falls on a steep cliff heading towards the foot, and a distant plain follows the flat earthen floor at the bottom.

Apparently, I was in an outdoor opera site on the summer evening. The heat of Arizona in which I stood until just a while ago was far away, and a cool wind blew through.

The proscenium arch of the stage shines gold in afterglow, and now the scenery of the next dream must spread beyond the dark stage.

Just while wandering inside before opening, a guest must be steeped in a time different from the daily life. A current theater only has a dream behind the proscenium arch, but at the Orpheum Theater, the next dream will appear each time a guest passes through the door. Unlike the present time when they can easily go far through various mass medias, the remnant of the era when only a theater was the dream remains in this Orpheum Theater.

As a theatrical play changed into a movie and the technology advanced, the dream that a theater had played faded away. In the 1970’s when it changed into the theater of Hispanic movies, the mural paintings and the golden proscenium arche were painted black for reasons of focusing on a movie.

To Japanese Version

Google Maps

Within the walking distance of downtown Phoenix.

Orpheum Theater

City of Phoenix
Visit Phoenix

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Americas Best Value Inn-Downtown Phoenix
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Maricopa Manor B & B Inn

Orpheum Theater

Luis Ruiz (Orpheum Theater)

2018.01 Photos and text in English version and Japanese version


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Orpheum Theater (1929) 

Photo by Daigo Ishii