GRAND OPERA          195-197 S. Main

Grand Opera Opened in 1890    Became HOPKINS Grand in 1900 .  Renamed ORPHEUM 1907

There's been a major Memphis Theatre on the corner of Main and Beale for over 122 years.  The Grand Opera House opened at the famous corner in 1890 and was touted as the finest opera house outside New York City.   But this fine theatre was not the first in Memphis to have the name "Grand Opera".  That distinction belongs to the Greenlaw Opera House.  In 1872, the Greenlaw was extensively renovated and renamed "Grand Opera".  That name does indeed appear for the Greenlaw address in the 1872, 1873, and 1874 Memphis Directories. 


Frank Gray was the manager of the Grand Opera.  He had been a Memphis newspaperman who was interested in Theatre and had begun work as an usher at Leubries Theatre.  He graduated to Business Manager, Acting Manager, and Manager.  He was manager at all of the leading theaters of Memphis, but was particularly known as the manager of The Lyceum.  Gray was considered a clever and capable manager who booked only the best attractions, and he was known as the "Dean of Southern Theatre Managers". 

The GRAND and HOPKINS GRAND OPERA are listed in the Memphis Directories from 1899 to 1907.


Grand - c 1893-95

Grand - c 1899

Frank Gray

1891 Directory

1896 NY Mirror

1892 Bond for Grand Opera

HOPKINS GRAND OPERA  195 - 197 S. Main


John D. Hopkins purchased the Grand Opera in 1899 - renaming it Hopkins Grand Opera.  His background was in Vaudeville and Minstrel Shows and he already had vaudeville theaters in Chicago and in St. Louis.  Once he took control he immediately hired his own resident Stock Company, and went about changing the house into a Vaudeville Theatre.  He replaced the gas lighting with 586 sparkling lights and changed the color of the foyer from a drab olive to a brighter gray and gold.  He completely renovated the house in 1903 and the color scheme was changed again to rose and gold, with the boxes accented with green and yellow.  Of course the primary fare was Vaudeville, but in 1906, the most popular act was the great Sarah Bernhardt.  


When Hopkins took over, he made Anderson B. Morrison the manager and Morrison remained in that position for the next 6 years.  He was considered one of the most popular theater managers in Memphis.  But Hopkins was a wheeler-dealer.  Around 1906 he was involved in a lawsuit because he planned to sub-lease the Opera House to a Burlesque Circuit.  All the criticism prompted Hopkins to try and sell the theatre.  This experience may have led to the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit being able to take over the house in 1907.


The GRAND and HOPKINS GRAND OPERA are listed in the Memphis Directories from 1899 to 1907.



Hopkins 1908

   Hopkins Interior

   Hopkins Interior

 Stock Co 18988


Sarah Bernhardt-Camille

Hopkins Alley 1906

Bert Young 1902

A. B. Morrison

Ad for Hopkins 1906


Billboard 1902

Burlesque ??? For Sale 1906 Unsold 1906 Theatre Description

 1906 Take Over ???




1906 Directory

 Hopkins Obit 1909

 Orpheum - 1907

ORPHEUM (The First Orpheum)   Re-named 1907 .  Burned 1923  

Vaudeville soon became the bulk of the acts at the Grand Opera, and in 1907 the theatre officially became part of the Orpheum circuit.  It was renamed the Orpheum Theater that same year.  In 1923, a fire broke out during a vaudeville show and the old Orpheum Theater burned to the ground. Five years later, on the foundation of the old theater, a new Orpheum Theater was built at a then-staggering cost of $1.5 million. Twice as large as the old theater, and much more ornate and luxurious, decorated in the style of Francois I, the Memphis Orpheum was beyond anything the builders of the old opera house could have ever dreamed, with brocade draperies, enormous crystal chandeliers, gilded moldings, and that mighty Wurlitzer organ.

Orpheum 1910

The ORPHEUM is listed in the Memphis Directories from 1909 to 1923 .   The 1913-14 Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guiide lists the old Orpheum with 1929 seats (See article below)


Orpheum at night 1911     

Orpheum 1916

Sold Out ! - 1919

1921 Armistice Parade

1921 Armistice Parade


1921 - Marquee     


Blossom Seeley -1923

Fire -1923

Marquee 1923

 Fire 1923


Chalmers Cullins

Stage Hands 1909

Variety 08







1908, 1912, 1913, 1914 Orpheum Theatre Programs . These rare Programs (Below) are from the Orpheum's early Vaudeville years and are in the collection of George Whitworth.    Click on the Program Cover to see entire program.


     1908 Cover

1912 - January

1912 -March


             1914 -January


Peabody-Orpheum Postcard      

Vintage Ticket    


See the  "Orpheum . Malco . Orpheum" page for the 2nd Orpheum Theatre





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