2011: A Great Year!

We are wrapping up a great year at Wichita’s historic Orpheum Theatre!  We are also humbled and grateful for the responses we have received from the public.  Truth be told, 2011 is just the beginning of the wonderful things to come.

In 2011, we exceeded the number of shows and attendance over 2010 and we had more than double the number of sell-out shows.  We also brought in many great performances like Martin Short, Merle Haggard, 311, Tower of Power, Wynton Marsalis, Lewis Black and Rosanne Cash, just to name a few.  Next year you can expect much more of these quality performances.

The beauty of the Orpheum Theatre is that it truly fills a wonderful and unique niche in the community.  Due to our size, location, architectural and cultural significance and impressive historic setting we can bring in world-class entertainment and be a community asset by featuring local music, theatre, dance and a venue for corporate gatherings and weddings. No other theater or venue in Wichita can do this.  Add on the fact that we are on the National Register of Historic Places, a designated American Treasure and the oldest surviving theatre designed by John Eberson and the first atmospheric theatre built in the United States makes the Orpheum Theatre invaluable to Wichita.

Tomorrow, January 1, 2012, we kick off a year-long celebration of our 90th Anniversary.  There are many exciting things coming your way and one of them is complete restoration of our beautiful theatre.


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Twenty-Five Years of Historic Preservation

An excerpt from a speech from Don Rypkema:

“Twenty-five years ago the historic preservation movement was primarily concerned with house museums and saving national landmarks. Today historic preservationists deal daily with issues of community character, saving local landmarks, cultural tourism, economic development, promoting neighborhood schools. It is not that house museums and national landmarks have become less important, but that our vision and horizon have significantly expanded.

Twenty-five years ago downtown revitalization was synonymous with tearing down that old stuff to make room for the new. Today historic preservation is the common denominator in virtually every sustained success story in downtown revitalization. Twenty-five years ago the National Main Street Center was just being formed; today 1600 communities have their own Main Street Programs and “The Main Street Approach” has become part of the vernacular of economic development professionals throughout the country.

  • Twenty-five years ago historic preservation was seen by many as a frivolous extra, peripheral to a city’s prerequisites. Today historic preservation is seen as an irreplaceable variable in the quality of life criteria essential for sustainable prosperity and growth.
  • Twenty-five years ago historic preservation was seen as the opposite of economic development. Today historic preservation is a vital vehicle of economic development.
  • Twenty-five years ago business leaders like Chamber of Commerce executives and bankers would rarely be seen at a preservation meeting. Last fall I was in Sayre, Oklahoma – population 4100 – where the drive to establish a National Register District downtown is being led by the two bank presidents and the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Twenty-five years ago there were only a handful of statewide preservation organizations; today 47 states have them, 41 of which have staff. Twenty-five years ago there was no such thing as a Certified Local Government, today there are 1343 of them in addition to some 200 local preservation advocacy groups and 2300 historic district commissions.
  • Twenty-five years ago historic preservation was a movement that was largely obstructionist and reactive – standing in front of bulldozers to stop a demolition. Today, while preservationists still sometimes need to stand in front of the bulldozer, preservation is more often at the table from the beginning and is a respected part of the problem solving process, not a fringe advocacy group that can be marginalized at will.
  • Twenty-five years ago there was no such concept as Smart Growth. Today historic preservation is a vital strategy in this nationwide movement.”

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John F. Kennedy

In memory of our 35th President of the United States:


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2012 Anniversary Film Series


We are thrilled to announce our 2012 Anniversary Film Series!  The Orpheum Theatre will celebrate its’ 90th anniversary in 2012, so we thought it was appropriate that we also celebrate the anniversaries of classic films for our annual film series.  The only film not an anniversary film? “The Bride of Frankenstein.”  It was just too good to pass on!  Our great and generous friends at Emprise Bank and at Knolla’s Pizza are sponsoring our film series again in 2012.

Next year promises to be stellar for the Orpheum Theatre and we hope everyone comes out to enjoy these classic films at Wichita’s classic theatre – the Orpheum Theatre!



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School of Rock

It’s not everyday the historic Orpheum Theatre opens its classroom doors to over 700 middle school students from USD 259.  The lesson for the day?  Rock ‘n’ Roll and financial literacy! No, that wasn’t a typo, the two subjects have a connection and the nationally known Wichita band Gooding is the perfect teacher.

Gooding is “[s]oul-stirring, foot-stomping Rock ‘n’ Roll from the plains. With 750 shows in 157 cities, this LA-based/Kansas bred power trio is by far one of the hardest working bands in America.”

The lesson for Friday, September 29, 2011 was financial literacy and how important it is in life, even when you are a rock star.

Lead singer and Wichitan Steve Gooding developed this program to help kids understand that being financially literate is an important skill and is necessary for making good choices with your money.

Beginning with a few hit songs, local students heard real-life experiences of how the decisions we make about managing our money can make a significant positive or negative impact on our lives. No matter our profession, financial literacy is important, even to rock stars.

Hours later, hundreds of excited and happy kids poured out of the Orpheum Theatre!  A win-win in many regards. A State of Kansas educational curriculum requirement for financial literacy was met and the kids enjoyed a great show.

For us, one other significant benefit from this day rings clear. Almost all of those kids had never been to the historic, downtown Orpheum Theatre before. It was their first time to see the magnificent proscenium, the Spanish building facades, the blue sky and twinkling stars.

For us, this was a gold-star day!  Any day with children at the Orpheum Theatre is a good day!

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Reasons To Be Grateful

In case you need another reason to appreciate Wichita’s historic Orpheum Theatre just a little more, take a look at this blog entitled “After the Final Curtain“.  We almost lost our Orpheum in 1984 to a wrecking ball, so the sight of these theatres is chilling.

Our Orpheum Theatre has a much brighter future indeed. Complete restoration is on the horizon. We count our lucky stars (literally) to still have the beautiful theatre that rests on the corner of Broadway and First Streets this day and everyday, since 1922.

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Volunteers important to success of Orpheum

Community support is essential to the Orpheum’s survival. This is not only done through the generous support of our donors, but also through the outstanding efforts of the Wichita Orpheum volunteers.

That’s right – volunteers. The people escorting you to your seats, popping popcorn, taking tickets, and mixing drinks are all volunteers from our community. Volunteers are crucial to the operations of our theatre and to the excellent customer service we are able to offer.

Our volunteers all have one thing in common: they believe in the Orpheum and its mission. And when they come to the Orpheum to volunteer, they find much more than a historic building – they find a family united by one goal. That goal is to support the Orpheum and make sure its doors stay open for all of Wichita.

We can’t think of a better time than right now for you to get involved at the Orpheum. The energy and excitement here is truly contagious and we would love for you to be a part of it. So we encourage you to become a volunteer. To spend at least one evening a month helping out at a show and helping the theatre succeed. If you believe in Wichita and you believe in the Orpheum, come and join us as a volunteer.

To learn more about volunteering at the Wichita Orpheum e-mail Chris Wren at chris@wichitaorpheum.com.

Mystery Dress

When your business is almost 90-years-old, items from the past occasionally surface. Last week was no different!

In a bag of clothing that was donated to Music Theatre, a very special beige dress with the Orpheum logo on it was discovered.  A volunteer recognized the logo and brought it to the Orpheum for inspection. We suspect the dress was the uniform of either a concession worker or housekeeping staff.  There are small shoulder pads attached, which may signify that it is from the 1940s. The dress will be part of a display at the Sedgwick County Historical Museum for the 90th anniversary of the Orpheum Theatre in 2012.

What a special discovery! We can only wonder who wore this Orpheum dress and the stories behind it.  If only our dress could talk.

It is unknown who donated the bag of clothing. So, if you have any information about the Orpheum’s mystery dress, please contact us directly at 263-0884.


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Things Worth Doing

Mae West, the famous Vaudeville actress and comedienne once said “Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.”

When it comes to restoration of historic buildings with architectural significance, the Orpheum Theatre is no exception.  The fact is that it has been a long and slow process of clean up beginning in the early 1980s to early restoration efforts in the 1990s.  It has literally taken a million dollars to enable the Orpheum Theatre to become operational 365 days a year!  Did you know that we officially reopened in the year 2000?  It’s been 12 years and 4 million dollars to reach where we are today.

And where is that? On the verge of complete restoration by 2013.  It’s no secret that the Orpheum is officially in a Capital Campaign to raise every penny needed to restore the our beautiful, historic theatre to its original 1922 splendor! There is a misperception that we have been in a Capital Campaign for years.  This is inaccurate.  Despite annual fundraising events for restoration projects and specific endeavors, the Orpheum has never embarked upon a multi-million dollar, fix it once and for all, for generations to come campaign.

The Orpheum Theatre is one of the greatest assets of the city of Wichita. A majestic, perfectly restored theatre will change this city for the better. What an accomplishment it will be. A tourist attraction and source of regional pride and attachment. The fact remains, whatever the reason or motivation for donating to our restoration.  It is the RIGHT thing to do.  There is no other alternative.  The Orpheum Theatre must be restored and now is the time.  There is no downside and the investment will likely bring prosperity to downtown, the city, economic development, increase in property value, expansion of cultural and musical offerings, and increase in educational offerings that we can present.

As a nonprofit organization, the Orpheum Theatre belongs to the people of Wichita.  It was a gift from city leaders in 1922.  City leaders, business leaders, entrepreneurs and the like came together for one common cause…to build the grandest vaudeville theatre around.  They succeeded! Generations of Wichitans grew up with the Orpheum and hold many dear memories of their youth. We must ensure that future generations have the same privilege.

Today, almost 90 years later, that theatre stands at the corner and Broadway and First Streets.  Today, we are working tirelessly to not only restore the theatre, but to improve the quality of performances, to reach out to broader audiences, to educate the youth about our history, our significance and our mission.  Soon, we will succeed.  So, get your tickets and enjoy the show.  The finale will be worth a standing ovation!



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The Economics of Historic Preservation

“Historic preservation makes sense in large measure because historic
preservation makes dollars and cents, but it also saves dollars and cents.
Historic preservation is a rational and effective economic response to
over-consumption. To make a new brick today to build a building on a site
where there is already a building standing steals from two generations. It
steals from the generation that built the brick originally by throwing away
their asset before its work is done, and it steals from a future generation by
using increasingly scarce natural resources today that should have been
saved for tomorrow.”
Don Rykema
The Economics of Rehabilitation [1997]xv

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