Cinema Treasures website has an interesting chain of comments by cinema history buffs, including by one calling himself "edison school jack." His recollections of The Orpheum:
As a young boy we (my Grandmother, my cousin and me) went to see the first Cinerama movie there. Then the second Cinerama film. The experience was just awesome. The theater itself was unreal. Huge, overwhelming, a spectacular sight that had to be experienced in order to appreciate the value of the architecture itself. The old three screen (three projector) effect could not be duplicated with the later trials of cinerama. The realism was gone. I think at the time there were only 3 theaters able to show cinerama. One in Seattle Wash, the other in Los Angeles Ca. On the west coast that is.
We also later saw mad mad...... world. It didn't seem to have the same effect. Later I watched How the west was won. The old Cinerama experience seemed to have disappeared, and was replaced with a single projector which made it nothing more than "over sized" cinemascope with stereo sound.
About the only thing close to Cinerama might be IMax.
The great movie days are gone.
For a look at the inside of the Cinerama set-up back in those "great movie days" click here. Fascinating.
Architect B. Marcus Priteca designed the building in the Spanish Baroque/Spanish Moorish style. It was built in 1926 as a Pantages Theater (evidently a kind of early chain of theaters) and served as a vaudeville house until it was sold to RKO. Soon after that it reopened as The Orpheum Theater and, according to Cinema Treasures, "remained a first run movie house for the next 35 years."
Sold again in 1970 and closed for a time, it was then reopened in 1977 as a live theater showcase, and an unsuccessful one, that shut down in 1981. Cinema Treasures has praise for the theater's operation in the decades since that closure:
The Shorenstein Hays Nederlander Organization bought the Orpheum Theatre in 1981 and reinvigorated it with the best traveling Broadway shows in the nation. Under their leadership, the Orpheum has now been going strong for over 20 years.The official website for The Orpheum under the SHN organization includes a video featuring an interview with owner Carole Shorenstein Hays. It's a short clip and a good one. The site also offers a virtual tour of The Orpheum Theater, The Official Site of Broadway in San Francisco. Compare these current Orpheum ticket prices with the Cinerama prices on the back of this old postcard. I'm sure they're worth the price; hey, it's Broadway at The Orpheum!
Fri & Sat eves at 8pm
Sat & Sun mats at 2pm
Tues, Wed, & Thu eves at 8pm
Wed mats at 2pm
Side Balcony 30.00
Preview Tues eve, July 22 at 8pm
All seats $50.00