Monday, July 15, 2013

Now Showing: The Orpheum Theatre, or Should I Say MALCO?

The Orpheum’s annual Summer Movie Series gives us the opportunity to revisit the glory days of the classic movie palaces of old, which was the original purpose for the Orpheum when it was rebuilt in 1928: to be a palatial venue for movies and Vaudeville.  At that time movies were silent and colorless but, as technology advanced, movies quickly grew into one of America's most popular forms of entertainment.

In those days there was no television, no iPads, iPods, or iPhones, and the word "Apple" only referred to the fruit that caused Adam and Eve to get the boot.

In 1940 M.A. Lightman bought the Orpheum for $75,000, a price that would not even cover this year's utility bill.  The theatre's name was changed to MALCO, and it became the company's flagship headquarters amidst its chain of theatres throughout the region.  
For the next 35 years the Orpheum was the place to go to see first run movies.  But that all changed  when multiplex theatre operations moved out to the suburbs.  I blame Adam and Eve for that as well.

In 1983 the old “Grande Dame” was given a much needed facelift to accommodate Broadway, Concerts, Opera, and Ballet.  These new  productions may have moved the movie business to the backburner, but we never forgot our roots, and we continue to show movies every summer out of respect for our place in Memphis movie history.

It's a real thrill to come to the Orpheum and get a box of popcorn, a soft drink - or a cocktail - and see GONE WITH THE WIND on the big screen, as it was intended.  People often ask me why we always show GONE WITH THE WIND, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, and other annual classics.  I guess it’s just because some things - no matter how old - will never die.  Yes, we always throw shows like THE BIG LEBOWSKI, ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, and HARRY POTTER into the mix for those looking for something more modern, and in many ways these movies are classics in their own right.   

For a couple of hours on a Thursday or Friday night, it is fun to sit back with your Milk Duds and popcorn and experience what our parents and grandparents felt when they visited the MALCO that is now the majestic Orpheum Theatre - back when life was less complicated.
Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO

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