On Friday night, August 5, 2011, I attended the annual screening of Gone With the Wind at the beautiful Orpheum Theater in downtown Memphis, TN.
Almost every year the Orpheum runs at least one screening of GWTW and this year proved to be a success!
The Orpheum Theatre of Memphis
203 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103
GWTW - The Event!
Amazingly, the Orpheum is one of the places where original autographed copies of "Bonnie Blue Butler: A Gone With the Wind Memoir" written by the late Cammie King Conlon are still being sold! Ms. Conlon played Bonnie Butler and passed away on September 1, 2010.
GWTW Treasures in the Orpheum!
GWTW Costume Contest and The Orpheum's World-Famous Wurlitzer!
Inside the Orpheum Theater of Memphis
In 1928, The Orpheum was constructed where The Grand once stood but was built twice as large as the former theater and was decorated with brocade draperies, enormous crystal chandeliers, and gilded moldings. A Wurlitzer Organ was added to the theater, as well. In the waning years of Vaudeville, the theater was sold to the Malco Movie Theater chain and from 1940 - 1976, the Orpheum ran first run feature films.
In 1977, The Orpheum was purchased by the Memphis Development Corporation and in 1982 reconstruction efforts were begun to restore the theater to its 1928 glory!
Today, when you visit the Orpheum you are greeted to a glorious historic theater of red-velvet seats, a beautiful golden arch proscenium, and crystal chandeliers throughout the theater. The Orpheum also features state-of-the-art technolgy so you can enjoy everything that any modern show has to offer!
Walking into the house at the Orpheum can be a breath-taking experience. Approximately 2300 people can be seated inside the Orpheum Theater with 1264 seats in the orchestra, alone! There are essentially three levels in the theater: the orchestra, the mezzanine, and the balcony!
Out of all the theaters I have ever been in, the Orpheum has, by far, the largest screen for showing movies. So, going to see Gone With the Wind at the Orpheum is an extra special treat! Scarlett and Rhett are truly larger than life. While the film always has a different dimension to it in the theater, this film fills every space of this theater and every square inch of the screen and grabs you into the massive canvas from the moment it begins.
History of GWTW at the Orpheum!
It was an awesome experience going to the Orpheum to see GWTW for the first time on the big screen. It was the first time I had ever heard the wurlitzer. It was like magic seeing it rise out of the great orchestra pit up to the stage and then disappear after the pre-show concert was over. Until that day, I had never known what it was like to watch Gone With the Wind in a theater, with an audience, and I had never seen Scarlett bigger than the image that would fit on my 24 inch TV screen at home. I was so used to watching it on my VCR and TV that I could not even imagine what it would be like to see it in the theater. I think I wasn't even convinced, until I saw it, that GWTW could be seen on a big screen in a theater.
From the moment, I saw Selznick's sign and Gone With the Wind swept across the screen I was mesmorized. The dresses were more beautiful than I had ever seen, the fire was more magnificent than I had ever seen, and the experience was totally different from watching it all alone on my TV and VCR. While recent restorations have made the 1989 restoration seem pale and maybe even forgetable, the national hoopla over the film and re-release to theaters brought together audiences young and old to experience it together and launch a new generation into seeing GWTW on the BIG SCREEN!
For the 50th Anniversary screening, The Orpheum had local GWTW collector, Pat McCarver display his collection in the lobby of the theater. Pat had an extensive collection including a scale-model replica of Tara and Clark Gable's dinner jacket from the barbecue scene. I was so excited to see a real collection of GWTW memorabilia on display and the autographs of stars that I had loved for nearly three years! Pat was the only collector to ever publish a GWTW collector's guide.
Pat McCarver was extremely kind to me during the 50th anniversary celebrations, when I was just a 10-year old kid. He sold me a set of GWTW cards and made me feel like they were the most cherished thing of his collection. Today, his name still continues to garner respect among many GWTW fans and I am thrilled to still have my little set of cards that I bought in the lobby of the Orpheum from Pat McCarver in 1989!