The Orpheum Theater is the premier concert and event venue in downtown Flagstaff. Its history as an entertainment venue dates back more than 100 years, to 1911, when John Weatherford, also owner of the Weatherford Hotel, constructed and opened it as the Majestic Opera House — an opera house, playhouse and movie theater. The building housed a stage, movie screen and a hardwood dance floor, immediately west of the hotel.
Tragedy struck the Majestic after a night of revelry at the annual New Year’s Ball, held on December 30, 1915. Following a midnight dinner, dancing continued until 2:30 a.m. as a heavy snow was falling outside. At approximately 6:00 a.m. on the morning of December 31st, the roof and walls of the Majestic collapsed under the weight of the snow.
The movie projector was salvaged and moved to what became the Empress Theater further east on Aspen Avenue. Undaunted, Weatherford rebuilt the theater, larger and more grand, and it reopened in August 1917 as the Orpheum. On occasion, movie stars stepped off the train in downtown Flagstaff for personal appearances at the theater.
Novelist Zane Grey, whose 56 novels sold more than 130 million copies, found Flagstaff at the center of the subjects and atmosphere he wanted to capture, and wrote about an idealized, unspoiled West, staying at the Weatherford and Commercial Hotels in Flagstaff, mingling with cowboys and absorbing their tales. As his books became movies, Grey insisted they be filmed in the actual locations described. When his Call of the Canyon, filmed in Oak Creek Canyon, opened at the Orpheum in 1924, the demand for tickets was so great, it had to be rerun several times.
Over the decades, the Orpheum survived several ownership changes and the threat of the wrecking ball, remaining open as a theater until the 1990s.
In 2002, three local entrepreneurs reopened the Orpheum, primarily as a music venue, after a period of renovation. Recently, in December, the revived Orpheum celebrated a 10-year anniversary with a bluegrass concert.
View a schedule of upcoming shows and events at the Orpheum website, as local, regional and national acts continue to provide spirited, quality entertainment in Flagstaff.