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Orpheum — Welcome back to East Main Street

July 8, 2010

Just two weeks ago the historic Orpheum Theater reopened with a bang - a four day gala event that put Marshalltown in the national spotlight.

Featured in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and National Public Radio, the former RKO Theater was back on the map.

This was a historic moment the community of Marshalltown can be proud of.

As Orpheum Director Pip Gordon and volunteer committee members began arrangements to raise the curtain they were certain of one thing - they wanted to make memories.

So how do you open a $3.4 million renovated 1949 theater that took 10 years, a bond referendum and "a village" so-to-speak to create?

You think big, but stay mindful of your budget and make it as inclusive as possible.

The first hurdle was what Gordon calls a "political night" to give recognition to the many local leaders, politicians, state boards and art alliances the Orpheum has depended on to reopen the theater.

With just 152 seats it was nearly impossible to determine who would represent the many contributors to the Orpheum project.

One special guest was Russell Sellers, 81, who was an usher back at the original opening in 1949. He took the first ticket at the show. When the Orpheum reopened he traveled from Minnesota because he "wouldn't have missed it for the world." Once he returned home he sent a thank-you card and a $100 donation to the theater.

But even greater than recognizing those VIPs was making the opening available to the many taxpayers that secured the reopening with a $35 million Iowa Valley Community College District bond referendum.

It was decided the opening events would have to span a four-day period.

With free movie admissions, open house and tours, a symposium opening featuring nationally recognized film historian Dr. David Hinton and a gala ball - more than 1,000 people visited the gem on East Main Street.

Now that the Orpheum is open, featuring a coffee shop and a unique social venue we should continue to support it.

When the theater launches its movies July 16 a family of four can see a classic movie on big screen, with popcorn and pop, for under $20.

Moreover, supporting the coffee shop and movie theater means investing in arts education for our children.

Iowa ranks 47th in the nation for arts funding. Here in Marshalltown we have a way to be sure that state budget reductions don't impact our youth.

While the state-of-the art facility is bound to do great things for our college students, the venue will surely be a community hub that not only entertains, but educates children.

We can be certain the Orpheum Theater is a place that wants to give back to the community and thank all of you who have supported the project.



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