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What Is Orpheum?

With so many theaters named Orpheum, many wonder about the origin of the word.
theater image by Luisafer from Fotolia.com

When visiting a place with the odd name of Orpheum, it’s natural to wonder about the meaning and origin of the word. Orpheum is actually a mutated word with origins in Greek mythology.


Orpheum is derived from Orpheus, a great Greek mythological poet and musician whose skills could charm animals, plants, and even rocks. According to legend, when Orpheus’s wife died his song was enough to charm Hades into giving her back from the underworld.

Vaudeville Circuit

In 1883 the entrepreneurs Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward F. Albee began a chain of theaters for their vaudeville acts. This idea gained popularity and others created theater chains, including Martin Beck, who started a chain called the Orpheum circuit. The Keith-Albee company later bought the Orpheum chain.


Nearly every major city in North America and many more cities around the world has had an Orpheum theater, many originally related to the Orpheum vaudeville circuit.

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