The Beach Times

Why You Should Visit the Chatham Orpheum Theater
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Monday, June 29, 2020

You'll have countless things to do during the days on your Cape Cod vacation, as you'll likely hit the beaches, walk the dunes, hike the trails, and maybe go for a boat trip into Chatham Harbor.

When the sun goes down, however, you might want to find an indoor activity to pass some time before heading back to your vacation rental for a good night's sleep.

The Chatham Orpheum Theater provides just such an activity, as this historic venue offers a unique place to check out a film.

The theater sits in the heart of downtown Chatham, near popular eateries like the Captain's Table, Bistro on Main, and Carmine's, making it the perfect place to cap a busy day spent exploring the Cape's top attractions.

The Theater's History

The original Orpheum Theater first opened its doors in 1916 and was the first movie house in Chatham. The theater operated throughout the silent film era and was a local institution for 72 years, creating a memorable location for locals and visitors alike to take in some of Hollywood's most famous productions.

In 1987, the venue, then known as the Chatham Theater, closed its doors, and the building was eventually converted into a CVS pharmacy. This closure left Chatham without a movie theater, and although a new multiplex was built in East Harwich, it didn't have the same character as the old building.

Re-opening in 2013

CVS would operate out of the building for the next 24 years, but then, in November of 2011, something happened: CVS vacated the building. As luck would have it, the East Harwich multiplex closed its doors on the very same day, leaving the area with a significant void, but one that the Orpheum could potentially fill.

A grassroots team quickly established a non-profit organization in Chatham with the goal of raising enough money to purchase the building and re-open the Orpheum Theater.

By April of 2012, the group had raised enough money for a down payment on the building's $1.2 million mortgage, giving them the opportunity to purchase the Orpheum. The work wasn't over, however, as the organization then raised even more money to restore the 100-year-old building and create a modern, state-of-the-art cinema inside.

The first movie screening in nearly 25 years took place on August 22, 2012, when "Musical Chairs" was played as a test before an empty room.

It wasn't until July 25, 2013, that the theater was ready for the public, and on that day, donors, volunteers, and board members watched "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in the building.

The first public screening took place on July 26, 2013, before a packed house. In fact, people lined up all the way down the street for the chance to see a movie at the new Orpheum Theater.

What's Playing

You should know that the Orpheum Theater isn't like a multiplex theater, as it shows a good mix of Hollywood productions, local films, classic films, documentaries, and independent films.

It also features various film series throughout the year, so if you're into a particular genre or you enjoy smaller productions, keep an eye on their calendar events to see what's playing while you're on the Cape.

The Orpheum Cafe

During the Orpheum building's renovations, a cafe was added, giving movie-goers and the general public alike access to another restaurant in downtown Chatham. The cafe is open seven days per week, and the great thing is that you can take anything that you order off the menu into the movie theater with you.

The menu at the Orpheum Cafe includes soups, salads, appetizers, tacos, and sandwiches, and they even have a selection of beer and wine, including seasonal beers produced on the Cape.

You won't find food options like this at any multiplex theaters, as this is yet another way that the board of the Orpheum Theater is trying to create a better viewing atmosphere for its supporters.

Support the Arts

Whether you have time to check out a movie during your vacation or you're simply too busy, you can still support this venture and the arts on Cape Cod in general.

The Orpheum Theater accepts donations through its website as they try to grow Chatham's arts scene and maintain this building for the next generation of film lovers.

If you can make it to the theater, tickets for most shows are $11 for adults and $8 for children and seniors, and you can purchase tickets online through the theater's website ahead of time.

Cape Cod is full of history, and Chatham's Orpheum Theater is a huge part of the Cape's past that has now become part of its present and future, as well.

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