Cinema East

4177 East Broad Street,
Whitehall, OH 43213

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Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 18, 2005 at 2:47 pm

I wrote to ‘Lizard McGee’, whose band Earwig has a song called ‘Cinema East’, and told him about this page. He sent me this reply:

“I’m glad that you have fond memories of Cinema East. I went to High School in Whitehall and went to that cinema a bunch as well. I also ended up working there and meeting my wife there. We both worked there and would sometimes stay late and run the movies just for ourselves. When it closed down, we still had a set of keys to the place. I would go and hang out there in the balcony with friends and play hide & seek in the dark.

“I play in a band called Earwig ( and I wrote a song called ‘Cinema East’ that happens to be one of our more popular songs that people have heard of. If you follow the links on our website you should be able to download an MP3 version of the song.

‘You can certainly post our story on the Cinema East page. I will be checking back often to read the updates. We loved Cinema East and were heartbroken when they tore the place down.

“You should find a link to the song Cinema East on this page
View link

Lizard McGee
Earwig & LFM Records

Mark_L on August 17, 2005 at 2:06 pm

Just remembered the managers name in the early ‘80’s…Jeff Montgomery. Nice guy. He worked for the Drexel for awhile, and then I lost track of him.

One of his great moments was running films for the cast of BRUBAKER, which was filmed east of Columbus. Much of the cast stayed in hotels around the theatre. He told me he ran a 70mm print of ALIEN for the cast and crew because Yaphet Kotto was in the cast of both films.

Mark_L on August 17, 2005 at 2:03 pm

OK…the e-mail link works now.

One of the reasons to look at microfilm is that much of the information one might be looking for is in ad copy, not articles.

Some of the highlights in Cinema East history include:

a sneak preview showing the THE STUNT MAN with Richard Rush, Steve Railsback and Barbara Hershey in attendance. (This was a couple of years before the film was released.)

ALIEN in 70mm…first 70mm film in years. Mr. Sugarman was very proud to be selected for that one.

THE CAR in magnetic stereo (just joking about that one…a bad but fun film..bad hiss in the surround system on that one)

Dolby Stereo engagement of STAR WARS…second Dolby install in the city. Process wasn’t very stable at that point…took me five times to finally hear it correctly.

ONE FROM THE HEART in 70mm. One of the few 70mm engagements of that film. Ran for about 1 week. Film was framed at 1.33 (or 37, whatever), but the sound was exquisite. Film ran there because a local theatre had one of the best runs in the country of that film.

OKLAHOMA in 70mm, 30fps. They even got the curtains working for that one. A wonderful experience. 30fps DOES make a difference.

Some not so nice moments include a very weak surround system (this was before surrounds became standard, remember…even in 70mm films the surrounds were rarely used) and the mis-splicing on a sneak preview on the last INDIANA JONES film with 2 reels spliced in tail first…900 VERY angry people on that one.

Off topic, there are a number of large screens in Columbus, including the UltraScreen at Marcus, the large rooms at AMC Lennox and Easton and the large rooms at ARENA GRAND. I don’t know the largest, possibly the Ultrascreen. The new RAVE theatre has some very large screens, also, but I haven’t seen an entire film there.

I’m taking a guess, here, but I think the move to Chakeres came around the release of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 17, 2005 at 12:45 pm

Here are some Dispatch summaries that would be worth looking up in full text:

December 16, 1985: Can Movie Fans Find Happiness With New Screens?
“Columbus will soon offer avid moviegoers almost 90 screens at 30 theaters.”

July 27, 1987: Sugarman Remembered As a Man of Wit, Style
“Charlie Sugarman once played a bit part in Hollywood, but he assumed a leading role on the Columbus movie scene.”

July 16, 1989: Neighborhood Theaters: There’s No Place Like Home
“Add the Mom and Pop theater to the Endangered Species list.
The privately owned, single-screen neighborhood theater is quietly going the way of rotary-dial telephones, manual typewriters and heavy beer. Some will call it progress, but you wonder which way they’re heading. ”

November 19, 1989: Audience Silence Golden
“I spend so much time watching mediocre movies with rude audiences in cheese-box auditoriums that I sometimes forget why I fell in love with movies in the first place. Last Sunday, a friend and I went to the Cinema East theater to see the reconstructed Lawrence of Arabia, and the experience was everything moviegoing ought to be.”

January 9, 1990: Cinema East Closes

January 14, 1990: Cinema East Closing Saddens Moviegoer
“The closing last week of the Cinema East theater was an unfortunate milestone in the history of moviegoing in Columbus.”

February 2, 1990: Cinema East Theater Was Its Own Worst Enemy to Patrons
“Being an avid movie fan, I attend movies often, avoiding Cinema East if at all possible. No matter how inclement the weather was, the staff there would hold patrons outside, not letting them into the large lobby until ticket time, a few minutes before shows.”

Hibi on August 17, 2005 at 10:10 am

Strange. It seemed much bigger than that. The balcony was always roped off and dark when I was there, so I couldnt get a look at it. Maybe the screen and the high ceiling made it seem bigger capacity-wise.

Mark_L on August 17, 2005 at 8:52 am

900 is correct…it wasn’t as big as it seemed. It wasn’t fan shaped like some of the other larger places…the walls came straight back from the screen. DAYTON MALL I was 1100 seats, and it was MUCH bigger in size than Cinema East.

The balcony was rather small…only 6-7 rows. I was able to sit there one time, and the view was outstanding.

Saw JAWS there from row 7…scared me half to death!!!

Oh, and Mr. Coate is correct: I have delved into the microfilm room at the Columbus Library for research. Reminds me I need to go down and check out why RETURN OF THE JEDI did not play in 70mm in Columbus!!! Let me know if there is anything specific you are looking for. I’ll try to fix my e-mail address.

Hibi on August 17, 2005 at 8:17 am

The main floor alone seemed in the 1,000 range. I’d be interested to know what the capacity was if anyone ever finds it. I never got a good look at how big the balcony was. Maybe it was a shelf style? It was always dark.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 17, 2005 at 7:47 am

I would, except that he doesn’t have an e-mail address listed so I have no way to reach him. If he does see this, he doesn’t need to use microfilm, because the Dispatch online archives are free in at least some Columbus-area libraries (Bexley is one of them).

Coate on August 17, 2005 at 6:53 am

Ron, why not nicely ask “MarkL” to look this information up on microfilm. He resides in Columbus. Better to refer to first-generation sources, such as the original newspaper articles, than secondary sources or memory.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 17, 2005 at 6:42 am

This page, listing DP70 projectors in the eastern US, is where I got the information about Cinema East’s seat count and its opening-day film. (It actually says “a 900+ seat theatre”).

If I search the archive for

“Cinema East” AND 1965

I get the two January 1990 articles about the theatre closing, so 1965 is probably the correct opening year. I’m too cheap to pay for the archive right now, and I’m no longer in Columbus so I can’t read it for free at the library.

Coate on August 17, 2005 at 6:13 am

Re the sale of the theater to Chakeres from Sugarman: Dolby Labs literature was listing the owner as Sugarman as late as 1987.

Hibi on August 17, 2005 at 5:47 am

Yes, it was! I saw it the LAST night of the engagement too. I allmost didnt make it (was a weeknight). I’d only seen the film on tv in its truncated form. Will never forget that night!

Mark_L on August 17, 2005 at 5:08 am

The screen wasn’t much bigger than 50', which goes to show you how small the screens used to be at the “shoebox” theatres.

Opening was with LORD JIM, so it was probably 1965.

Glad you saw LOA in 70mm…that is the only way to see that film. One of the great movie experiences!

Hibi on August 17, 2005 at 4:51 am

I was able to see the rerelease of Lawrence of Arabia at the Cinema East (the only film I’ve ever seen in 70mm) and it was fantastic. I didnt realize at the time that the theater was in its final days. It seemed much bigger than 900 seats (perhaps that didnt take into the account the balcony? It was always closed the few times I was in there). When it lost exclusive run status, the theater began its long slow slide. It was never crowded when I was in there, and it was a large theater. Does anyone know the year it opened? Early 60’s? (I wasnt around then). It was one of several theaters on that stretch of E. Broad that are all gone now (Town and Country,

Carousel East). Cinema East advertised it had the biggest screen in

the city. I’m not sure if any theater built since then has a larger

one. Does anyone know how big the screen was? Even in its last days, the theater was kept up well. I agree, the lobby area was small. It did have its own parking lot, but it couldnt compete with the multiplexes springing up in the burbs……..

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 15, 2005 at 4:46 pm

I was in Columbus last week for a high school reunion. While there, I stopped into the Bexley library and did some searching in the Dispatch archives, but didn’t think to look up Cinema East. If you have the time to do so and find anything interesting in the Dispatch articles, please post more comments here.

Mark_L on August 15, 2005 at 4:43 pm


Charlie Sugarman sold the theatre to Chakeres probably around the early 80’s. They maintained the theatre fairly well, eventually installing a 70mm Dolby unit. Until then, special non-Dolby 70mm prints had to be sounded for Cinema East and 1 or 2 other older theatres in the country.

Columbus Public Library has a full set of Columbus Dispatch on Microfilm back to the 1800’s!

Lawrence of Arabia was one of the last things there. The presentation quality dropped substantially in the last couple of years.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 15, 2005 at 4:23 pm

By the way, a Google search for

“Cinema East” AND Columbus

turns up many references to a song titled “Cinema East”, performed by a Columbus band whose name is either Earwig or Lizard McGee. I assume the song is somehow inspired by this theatre, but I’ve never heard it nor read the lyrics.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 15, 2005 at 4:17 pm

I listed the chain as “Chakeres Theatres” because of a Columbus Dispatch article from January 9, 1990, which stated: “A spokesman for the owner, Chakeres Theatres of Springfield, said the lease on the property had expired.”

Was Sugarman the owner of Chakeres, or did he lease the theatre from Chakeres?

The author of another Dispatch article, published on November 19, 1989, talks about seeing “Lawrence of Arabia” at Cinema East the previous Sunday. That’s just a few weeks before the theatre closed.

Searching the archives is free, but reading the full text of articles normally costs money. If you go to the Bexley Public Library, you can read the Dispatch archives for free. This is probably also true at the Whitehall and Columbus libraries.

Mark_L on August 15, 2005 at 10:33 am

Cinema East, located in the eastside Columbus suburb of Whitehall, was opened by Charles Sugarman, a local exhibitor (He also had a 2 Screen CINEMA NORTH and, for a short time, a 3 screen in Grove City.)

In its opening years, Cinema East played roadshow engagements, such as Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines. It installed Dolby Stereo for the first STAR WARS film (35mm only), and played 70mm prints of most major 70mm releases beginning with ALIEN. It also played some of the more obscure 70mm releases, including a short run of ONE FROM THE HEART. The theatre also ran the 30fps print of OKLAHOMA for 1 week.

The theater featured 2 Norelco AA-II projectors and a basic 6-channel sound system. Presentation was normally outstanding.

The lobby was quite small with one of the smallest concession stands I’ve ever seen. There was a balcony, but it was rarely open.

The theatre was demolished and the Social Security office is in a new building.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 15, 2005 at 4:18 am

I saw Star Wars here in the summer of 1977, but I don’t remember whether it was a 70mm presentation.