We’re pretty lucky to be friends with the folks at DLR Group who are renown for their conservation and restoration projects. But none have likely been as big of a project as the revitalization of Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. As cars began to inundate the city and home televisions began to deplete ticket sales the theater district was almost flattened to – as the Counting Crows put it – “pave paradise and put up a parking lot”.
Today the collection of theaters in Playhouse Square make up the second largest theater district, and thanks to DLR Group, they have been fully returned to their former glitz and glam.
The State Theater was the first & largest theater to welcome guest opening with the silent film A Polly with a Past, accompanied by the music of the Hyman Spitolny Orchestra. It is not only the largest theater in Playhouse Square with a seating capacity of 3,400 guest but once held the title of being the venue with “the world’s longest theater lobby”. That same lobby is now home to four (priceless) murals by American modernist James Daugherty.
Mimi Ohio Theatre
The Ohio Theater has experienced a rollercoaster of a journey to get to where it is today. In 1935 the venue was turned into a casino, however the poker tables were empty because, well, gambling was illegal. They were forced to close their doors and a few years later rebranded as a movie theater, only to be devastated by a fire that consumed the lobby. To hide the smoke damage, the interiors were painted red, but that didn’t help the theater from being forced to close its doors for a second time and being threatened with demolition. Luckily, dedicated members of the Playhouse Square Assn. came to its rescue and worked tirelessly to restore it back its original glory.
When the Hanna Theatre opened in 1921, the most expensive seats cost three dollars, but guest didn’t have to pay more for a little extra leg room—they just needed to reserve a seat in a particular row. Owner Dan Hanna decided the standard thirty-one inches between rows was not enough room for him to enjoy a show. As a result, he had 4 extra inches added between the fourth and fifth row where he preferred to sit making it the best location in the house, especially for taller guest.
Originally designed as a silent movie theater, the Allen Theater is one of the few “daylight atmospheric” theaters in the country. With a ceiling painted to resemble the open daylight sky and a rotunda that looks like the Villa Madama in Rome you will truly forget that you are in the heart of Cleveland.
Connor Palace Theater
When its doors opened in 1921, no one could argue against that fact that the Palace Theater was “Most Magnificent Theatre in the World”. Decorated with 154 crystal chandeliers, a million-dollar art collection, and the world’s largest woven-in-one-piece carpet, not an expense was spared. Well, except one. While the lower level of the lobby features genuine Italian marble, the 2nd floor is made up of plaster, with a faux-marble finish that can easily convince anyone it’s the real deal. The theater was restored back to its original glory in 1988, and although, the artwork and carpet are long gone, theatergoers would never notice any grandeur missing.