The Marion Cultural and Civic Center is a state of the art theater facility constructed in 2004. It is owned and Operated by the city of Marion. It was founded in 1974 after the City of Marion purchased the Orpheum Theater.
The Orpheum Theater opened on January 2, 1922. The Orpheum was the flag ship of a chain of vaudeville and moving picture theaters constructed in Southern Illinois. The Orpheum was more than a place to see live and moving picture shows. It was a center of civic activities for the City and County. By 1973, when the movie house closed, the Orpheum Theater was a shadow of its former self. The City purchased and, without the assistance of State or Federal funds, volunteers restored the building. In 1974 the fifty-three-year-old facility was reborn as the Marion Cultural and Civic Center. On August 18, 1974 the doors of what was now the Marion Cultural and Civic Center were opened for the Miss Southern Illinois.
Between 1974 and March of 1997, over a million patrons enjoyed concerts and theatrical productions starring nationally known artists. The Patron Series provided our relatively rural population the opportunity to partake in quality cultural events common to urban communities. The opportunity to see world renowned performers, orchestras, soloists and dancers presenting both classic and modern works of their genre was now available. Each year the Young Peoples Arts Seriesexposed more than three thousand students from first grade through junior-high to a range of diverse disciplines in the performing arts.
In addition to these programs, and the monthly Classic Movie Series, this theater annually hosted scores of events sponsored by a broad variety of regional renters. Grandparents, who received their eighth-grade diplomas on the stage of the Orpheum Theatre, saw their children and their grandchildren performing on the same stage. It was home to the Mrs. Illinois and Miss Southern Illinois Pageants. Schools of dance, baton, and pompon held their recitals here, as did vocalists, pianists, and other instrumentalists. The High School Band and Music Departments presented concerts and musicals. The Paradise Alley Players, our local community theater group, held three plays a year and conducted children’s theater workshops in the summer. Gospel music and Country Western shows, body building and gymnastic competitions, a monthly travelogue series and an international goose calling contest all called the Marion Cultural and Civic Center home.
The Marion High School Music Department production of Bye Bye Birdie performed the final show Saturday evening, March 8th. As the band, cast, and crew left the theater after their successful completion of months of effort, they were filled with a sense of elation tinged with sadness. Sadness became sorrow in the early morning hours of Monday, March 10, 1997, as fire made their production the last event held in the seventy-five year old theater.
The City of Marion along with the Marion Cultural and Civic Center Foundation expeditiously started fund raising to support the rebuilding of the Center. The decision was made that if rebuilding was going to occur; that it should be constructed bigger and better than the old facility. The City of Marion purchased two properties directly to the east of the former center. This land purchase allowed for expansion of the plans to build a much larger building.
White and Borgognoni Architectural firm developed the design and plans for the new Marion Cultural and Civic Center. This design was the recipient of The American Institute of Architects 2005 Southern Illinois District Design Award. It was chosen for its integration of salvaged section of the historic terra cotta façade into the entrance of the modern facility, along with creating a state of the art theater facility which is both easy to perform in and comfortable to be an audience member. This award winning design was implemented on March 10, 2002 with the ground breaking ceremony for the new Marion Cultural and Civic Center.
The new MCCC covering 33,000 square feet dwarfs the old center which occupied only 8,450 square feet. 24,550 square feet is a formidable difference in the size of a performance venue. Construction of this new facility was completed in 2004. In May of 2004, the first event was held on the stage when hundreds of high school students traversed the stage for the Marion
High School Promenade. The community had been so eager to use the new facility that they would hold the promenade prior to the carpet being along with many other details that needed to be finished up.
Upon completion the City of Marion now possesses one of the best theatrical facilities and concert venues
in Southern Illinois. This facility comfortably seats 1065 with hardly a bad seat in the house. The theater is sufficiently equipped with state of the art sound and lighting equipment along with a fully functional fly gallery above the stage. In addition the orchestra pit in front of the stage caters to musical theater by allowing for a live pit orchestra.