The Orpheum Theater was constructed at the corner of 9th Street and Saint Charles in 1917 by Saint Louis self-made millionaire Louis A. Cella. The lead architect was Albert Lansburgh, and artist Leo Lentelli was responsible for the ornate sculptures that are still magnificent today. Lansburgh had already designed seven previous theaters for the Orpheum franchise. Lentelli had began working in Rome in the early part of the twentieth century before moving to New York City where his works were commissioned for many projects, including Rockefeller Center. When it joined the more than two dozen theaters of the national "Orpheum vaudeville circuit" on its Labor Day opening, the $500,000 "Parisian style" theater was considered an "architectural masterpiece and technological wonder." With the end of vaudeville in the mid 1930s, the theater was leased to Warner Brothers as a movie house, and subsequently Loews assumed its management. In the 1960s it underwent a reincarnation as a performance venue and was re-christened The American Theater. The venue has played host to a vast array of entertainment , including plays, musicals, and concerts. Many of the great names in American theater graced its stage in the, including Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, Julie Harris, Cary Grant, Eartha Kit, James Whitmore, Eli Wallach, Liv Ullman, John Gielgud, Paul Robeson, Mae West, and Henry Fonda, to name just a few. In the early 1980s, The American became primarily a venue for special events (corporate events, weddings, and private parties) and occasional rock concerts. Acts such as Pearl Jam (who filmed a video in the theater), Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alicia Keyes, Dave Mathews Band, Tori Amos, and Nelly appeared on stage. Then, in December, 2003, Saint Louisians Mike and Steve Roberts purchased the theater from Charles Cella, grandson of the visionary who built it. They undertook a major rehabilitation of the theater, bringing it back to its former splendor. Reverting to the original name, The Roberts Orpheum Theater returned to full operation to host a wide variety of events including concerts, theater, dance, lectures, and movies, as well as corporate events, conferences, and private parties. We are honored to be entrusted with the legacy of The Roberts Orpheum Theater and its rich heritage, and are committed to maintaining its status as a first rate venue for generations of Saint Louisians to come.
Saint Louis Theatre Organ Society.
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Revised: November 04, 2010