The original Orpheum Theater opened in 1916 as Chatham’s first and only movie house. From the early days of silent films through the blockbuster era of JAWS, our Main Street movie theater was a magical place for 72 years — a year-round destination where generations of Cape Cod families and summer visitors could enjoy gripping dramas, slapstick comedies, joyous musicals or swashbuckling adventure films week after week.
In 1938, the building was purchased by Interstate Theaters Corporation and became known as the Chatham Theater. Then in 1987, like so many village movie theaters on Cape Cod, it ceased operations, went dark, and eventually became a CVS pharmacy. The entire town mourned the loss of this iconic Main Street treasure, but the tradition was never forgotten
The return of the Chatham Orpheum Theater began in November 2011, right after CVS vacated the historic theater building at 637 Main Street. A local grass roots team was quickly formed and established a non-profit organization with an audacious goal: To raise funds needed to buy the original Orpheum building and bring back movies to Main Street
Led by founding president Naomi M. Turner and a local team of volunteers, the first $1.3 million was raised to purchase the building in April 2012. The team then launched a more daunting challenge — raising the projected $4 million needed to restore and rehabilitate the 100-year-old wooden structure as a modern, first-class cinema that would feature first-run major motion pictures plus art house movies, independent productions, provocative documentaries, and the works of local filmmakers.
Thanks to new donations from 2,500 individuals and foundations, plus two major government grants from the Town of Chatham and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, restoration construction commenced in late 2012. Chief architect Doug Gensler’s professional design team worked diligently to restore the historic jewel-box theater in traditional Cape Cod style. Over the next eight months, the iconic old Main Street building was transformed into a quality cinema featuring two screens with 3-D capability, 7.1 SurroundSound© audio, and extremely comfortable seats with widely-spaced aisles. A key focus was the bright and vaulted lobby, where patrons can enjoy beer, wine, cocktails and great food at the Orpheum Café … purchase tickets and traditional concessions … plus view the striking and highly popular mural, The After Party — the signature work of local artist Hans de Castellane which pays whimsical tribute to some of Hollywood’s most famed actors, actresses and directors.
Thanks also to a $750,000 construction loan from Cape Cod Five in early 2013, the Chatham Orpheum Theater officially opened to the public as a non-profit cinema on July 26, 2013 … bringing movies back to Main Street in the most state-of-the-art movie theater on Cape Cod.
Every facet of this jewel box movie house and cultural center is unique, affordable, and community driven. In addition, the Chatham Orpheum Theater offers creative alternative programming for children, elders, and families.
Open daily and managed by a small staff and a large team of enthusiastic volunteers, the Chatham Orpheum Theater has become one of Chatham’s most popular destinations, drawing more than 200,000 patrons over three years.
But as a small, non-profit community cinema, the Chatham Orpheum Theater’s future success and sustainability still depends on contributions to help pay off the remaining construction debt and also provide funds for maintenance, improvements and operations.
Movies are back on Main Street — and your tax-deductible support for the Chatham Orpheum Theater will ensure they are here to stay for many more years to come!
“I was happy to learn that the Orpheum Theater is returning to Chatham, and it is an added pleasure to know that you will show “Jaws”, “E.T.”, and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The Orpheum’s history and my own are coming together again. There is no better place to see movies than in a modern theater and the Orpheum will be a fitting showplace that can be an example to other cities that have lost their movie palaces. I applaud all those who made this rebuilding possible and I want to personally thank my friend Doris Kearns Goodwin for bringing your theater to my attention.”
– Stephen Spielberg