L.A.’s ‘Newest’ Venue

An upsurge of activity at a venue in downtown Los Angeles – the 2,000-capacity Orpheum Theatre – caught Pollstar’s attention. The venue averages a trickle of shows each year but now there’s a slate of them on the books through December.

It’s not a Live Nation venue nor an AEG one. It didn’t just reopen after renovations. There’s really nothing new to the place – yet, all of a sudden, instead of six shows a year, the Orpheum is hosting several a week.

Between now and December, The Black Crowes, Devendra Banhart, P.J. Harvey, Dashboard Confessional, Ben Harper, HIM, Iron & Wine, John Butler Trio, Andrew Bird and others are playing the theatre.

The Orpheum, which is on California’s registry of historic places, got a facelift in 2001 but that was the most significant change this century. So what made the difference?

"Has it taken me six years to get where I’m at? Yes," owner Steve Needleman told Pollstar. "I think there’s a recognition by the agents in L.A. that the Orpheum is a great place to go see a show. I tried for four years to get people in the door. It was a slow process."

Likewise, the major promoters are beginning to view the room as a viable alternative to venues they may own or have exclusivity on, Needleman added.

Oh, and there’s one other reason.

"I have an exclusive agreement with Bill Silva," the owner said. But it’s an agreement that includes another agreement with Paul Tollett. "I have a long-term relationship with Goldenvoice going back to when I ran the Grand Olympic Auditorium [in Hollywood] back in the ’90s. Goldenvoice is also putting in a tremendous amount of shows."

Nederlander is also co-promoting the Ben Harper date with Silva, so the recognition of the Orpheum is taking off, the owner said. It began about three years ago when Goldenvoice’s Donna Busch brought in Bright Eyes.

There’s yet another factor, which can be easily gauged by the photo accompanying this story: the venue is stunning.

"I think I offer a unique opportunity in LA for a sit-down theatre as everything else is turning into dance floors," Needleman said, mentioning a couple of iconic venues in L.A. that have removed their floor seating. "I think I have a nice 1920s vaudevillian, French Baroque environment where you can come in and put on a great show."