*NOTE: I apologise in advance for the low-quality photos. These were taken three years ago with my phone camera.
You may recognise the interiors from watching Twilight, The Flash, and most recently, in Once Upon A Time. The main ‘waiting area’ was used as the audience room for Isaac Heller’s Heroes and Villains book signing in the S4 finale of Once Upon A Time.
Oh what would I have given to be an extra in that scene? (Alas, by then, I was already in Europe. During my last four years in Vancouver, I never once was an extra in OUAT nor did I have the good luck to watch a scene being filmed around town.)
The location for these films is the Orpheum on Granville St, and the corner of Seymour and Smithe. Originally built as a vaudeville house, the Orpheum is now the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. It had also been a silent film theatre and venue for live performances. (In fact, an original organ is still under the stage, with pipes on the side panels. Today, it is used for some performances.) It took one year to build and was completed in 1927. The style was simply ‘a theatre of dreams’.
The theatre featured Spanish-style arches, Moroccan circles, and Canadian/British heraldry (French fleur-de-lys, Scottish thistle, Irish clover, and English Tudor rose), and had Italian and Indian hung ceiling. There were also Chinese tapestries hanging from the walls since 1927. The amusing part? The pillars aren’t solid.
There are also 140 chandeliers made with Czech crystal. The chandeliers in the auditorium and original building are of course much older and the quality of the crystals are of a higher grade. Over the years, Orpheum has hoarded lots of lightbulbs and for good reason as many of the lights used (all around the building) are rare and cannot be found today.
The original main entrance was on Granville St. As it was (and still is) very expensive property, the building stretched from Granville to Seymour St (parallel), where the land value was more affordable. As you can see from the two photos below, mirrors lined the walls to create an illusion that the hallway/foyer is much larger than it is.
In the 1970’s, Famous Players wanted to demolish the building. (I’d just like to point out how idiotic – sorry but not sorry – people were back in the 1960’s-80’s. How many perfectly fine heritage buildings have been demolished and replaced with hideous concrete boxes that our poor eyes must endure around the city. I’d like to recommend any developers to knock down these ‘new’ Soviet-style buildings first before considering any more heritage buildings. THANK YOU.) Thanks to a petition to save the building, the theatre was bought by the City of Vancouver, received heritage status, and was granted as the permanent home of the VSO. An additional entrance was added in the 1980’s on Smithe (there is also an exit on Seymour). In order to expand the theatre with the extra bit of land on Smithe, a wall of the theatre was knocked down to connect the two.
Inside the auditorium, one can see a grand chandelier, much like the one in the Palais Garnier in Paris, France. It is haloed by a new colourful mural painted on vans and applied like wallpaper. History lovers need not panic for the original mural was not as fancy; it was painted powder blue. Around the auditorium are new curved panelling that help improve the acoustics. Unfortunately, they cover old flat panels with names of composers.
Best seats in the house for the best price?
Ironically, the ones who pay less (perhaps the lowest) and must sit further away from the stage are the ones who will have the most acoustically fine performance. The top middle, if you don’t mind having a heavy chandelier above your heads. Those under 30 can join a free membership to attend as many VSO concerts as they please for $10-15. Youth members can then bring one guest of any age for the same fee. Need help selecting seats? I found Google view helpful but it will only show you the view from certain rows.
Thanks to Google Maps today, you can also have a free private viewing of the interiors with the ‘Little Yellow Man’. However, I recommend that you attend the tour as there are many hidden parts (and secrets) of the theatre that are not usually available to the public. You’ll know what I mean when you sign up for a tour! 😉
Summer Tours (July-August)
Days & Times: 11am on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays
Cost: min. donation of $10
Duration: 1.5 hours