Why did it take 10 years for the Orpheum to re-open?
The current owners, Roland von Kurnatowski and Dr. Eric George, have only had the Orpheum since February 2014; it went through several hands following Katrina. They bought it for $1.3-million and it’s a $13-million renovation. As owners, they have been very involved and are dedicated to restoring the theater to its original glory. Built in 1918, it was a vaudeville theater, a vertical-hall construction, which makes it unique to our theater landscape in the South. We’ve brought back the original terra cotta work and restored all that ornate plasterwork by hand. We’ve brought back the beauty of the original color scheme—they’ve been painting for 18 months.
What else will theater-goers notice?
Our tag line is “old-style craftsmanship meets modern amenities.” You have all this nicely preserved work, while you’re going to have six bars. We’ve added bathrooms; there’s one on every floor. We have suites available in the upper tier, where you can host a private party for 30 people for a show. All state-of-the-art audio and lighting systems are being installed.
One could say with Orpheum’s return, in addition to the re- openings in recent years of nearby Saenger, Civic, Mahalia Jackson and Joy, there’s been a renaissance, perhaps even a golden age, for this downtown theater district.
We’re thrilled to join the ranks of the other theaters. Every theater is going to find its niche, and already has, for the most part. Fortunately, we live in a city where everybody likes to go out and see live music.
One could say with Orpheum’s return, in addition to re-openings in recent years of nearby Saenger, Civic, Mahalia Jackson and Joy, there’s been a renaissance, perhaps even a golden age, for this downtown theater district. Do you agree?
We’re thrilled to join the ranks of the other theaters. They were all operating beautifully before Katrina forced everyone to shut their doors. Every theater is going to find its niche, and already has, for the most part. We’re looking forward to joining in with our own experience. Fortunately, we live in a city where everybody likes to go out and see live music. We’re thrilled to welcome people back into the doors of our theater and give them a great experience. We know we have a community that’s going to the support that, and is going to support all the theaters.
What range of entertainment will the Orpheum bring in?
If you look on the exterior of the Orpheum, it’s actually carved into the terra cotta: Theater, Music, Comedy. We hope to bring all that back and more.
How will the Orpheum stand out?
We’re going to take great care of our customers and enhance their theater experience with specialty cocktails, small plates and show-before-the-show fun.