Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Old Postcard Wednesday--Cinerama! The Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco, California

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!

Ticket Prices
Fri & Sat eves at 8pm
Sat & Sun mats at 2pm
Orchestra/Loge $99.00
Mezzanine 75.00
Balcony 50.00

Tues, Wed, & Thu eves at 8pm
Wed mats at 2pm
Orchestra/Loge $75.00
Mezzanine 60.00
Balcony 45.00
Side Balcony 30.00

Preview Tues eve, July 22 at 8pm
All seats $50.00


Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Where do you find these fascinating post cards and information? Do you collect them? This is the kinda history they should have taught in school, not the boring old roman plate stuff, but things you can actually relate to. This reminded me of an I-max cinema in Birmingham, UK where the screen is the size of about 6-7 normal cinema screens and they show endless documentaries about space narrated by Tom Hanks.

great stuff as usual :)

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

Ooooh, I wish I could have went to see a movie like that.....sounds really interesting!

Katie said...

Awesome postcard! I sure wish I was in Cinerama! I've only been to a concert at the Orpheum; oh to have been able to see movies there back in the day. Thanks for all the extra info; now I have to go check out all your links!!

Ian France said...

Too bad it closed down, I could not imagine the thrill or experience that that theater would give you without actually putting your life at risk.

Lydia said...

Thanks much! My first Old Postcard Wednesday explains my stash of cards, here:
You're right, history classes would have been much more engaging if the courses included pop culture info; it's a way to relate to the past, I think.
I've not been to an I-max theater, and I think the one in Portland has actually had a documentary narrated by Tom Hanks in the past.

Me too. I guess I-max is as close as we'll get. You might get up into space in a trip for the public someday, however, and that would top it all.

Thanks:) You are probably the only person I "know" who has been to a concert there.

Yea, reading all those comments at the one website really showed how much people loved it in the old days. I'm glad they took time to write their memories of the place. I guess we all should think of our blogs as a means of recording our life and time in similar fashion.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in San Francisco, and would've loved the chance to go here. Sadly, it - like a lot of the great old theaters - is gone. And that's sad. One of my favorite childhood memories is going to some of the great old theaters in SF. Unlike the cineplexes of today, the theaters were an experience themselves.

Lydia said...

Ah, to have grown up in San Francisco! It's wonderful that you have memories of those great old theaters. I live in a small town in Oregon that has an old theater right downtown. They did a remodel a few years back that enhanced the art deco design inside, and it's an absolute treat to go. In fact, Mama Mia began there tonight and we're planning on seeing it this weekend :)



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