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Add the Orpheum as a “must visit” spot for downtown LA fun

I was fortunate enough to enjoy an evening out at the newly renovated Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles this past weekend. Built in 1926, this restored jewel of a theater is a treat not only for those who love movies and live performance, but for anyone who enjoys seeing incredible architecture reborn.

The almost overwhelming beauty of the place greets you as you enter the main lobby doors.
Photo by Patricia Steffy

Designed by G. Albert Lansburgh, the theater echoes a French Renaissance style throughout the main theater and the various lobbies and lounges. It’s one of those glorious places where it is not enough to look ahead, but you should also remind yourself to look up. The intricate designs of the ceilings and chandeliers could hold your attention for hours—if you weren’t already there to see a performance, of course!

Rehab started in 2001, and the theater is now considered the most restored of all the downtown theaters. As a special surprise for visitors to the Orpheum, audiences get to enjoy the sounds of the Wurlitzer theater organ as they enter the auditorium. The Mighty Wurlitzer was installed in the theater in 1928, and the sound that it still generates is incredible. Organist Tony Wilson gave quite a performance the night we were there to screen Citizen Kane as part of the Last Remaining Seats series hosted by the Los Angeles Conservancy. Judging by the rousing applause from the audience, we were not alone in our appreciation.

Honestly, I could have spent another hour just wandering around the different theater levels. The detailing of the furniture, railings and curtains rival in beauty the more intricate motifs in the main auditorium. It’s easy to feel like you are wandering into another time as you walk through the halls and slip into your seat.

Shows run at the Orpheum all year long, and it has a significant 2,000-seat capacity. So, if you are looking for something to do downtown in Los Angeles, be sure to add this venue to your list of possibilities.