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It was a remodeling and enlargement of an earlier theatre called the Ivanhoe. They added about 40 feet to the screen end of the building and built a new facade. More modern style plasterwork and light fixtures were used, much of which remained until demolition. I explored the building in its last use as a church when a friend got the chaser and marquee lights working again. When you went through the attic from the booth, about half way down one section between the roof trusses had painted and plastered walls on the side of the roof trusses and a plaster ceiling at the top in the area that had been the Ivanhoe stage. The building had suffered severe water damage and the bowling alleys were warped and twisted.
The architectural firm was a local one named Stophlet & Stophlet. The Ohio was the only theatre they designed. It is another stadium style built on a lot which is not square, so the stage and the lobby are triangular in shape with a very small wall on the short side.
The Esquire and several storefronts were constructed in the shell of a six storey building which was demolished down to the second storey. The building had been built for Lasalles Department store and predates their newer building from 1917 which is now the Lasalle Apartments. After Lasalles moved, the building housed a number of smaller businesses before the partial demolition and reconstruction. A series of arched windows filled in with brick were visible on the South side exterior wall of the Esquire, these had been filled in for the theatre conversion. Most of the interior structural work for the theatre was executed in poured concrete with very little steelwork.
The Rivoli was a very extensive reconfiguring of the much older Arcade theater, which had its entrance on Jackson Street around the corner from St Clair entrance of the Rivoli. The C. Howard Crane firm also has a notation in their commissions list for work on both the Rivoli and Palace but the extent of the work is not noted and no drawings survive. During the demolition a very large part of the roof structure fell all at once as a result of not being constructed the way the workers expected, a sign of it being a major structural remodeling. The interior was more accurately described as Italian Renaissance, which was in keeping with the exterior main facade design. A surviving settee from the balcony level of the lobby is in that style and venetian green painted carvings.
Now I find in the April 6, 1972 issue of Jet Magazine that “The Last Jesus” is a “semi-musical” by South African director J T Teko Menong. It was to star Kim Weston and “deal with problems as they are”. The magazine stated it was to be in Toledo, but that is where the investors were, not the filming. just a one sentence note of a project never completed.
The architectural firm was C. Howard Crane of Detroit, Michigan. I have the full plans of the building. The Sepia Arts Theatre was the full name of the operation in the 1970’s. They actually were fairly successful with programing and live events as well. The downfall came from the same company producing a feature film entitled “The Last Jesus” in New York City, production costs mounted and ultimately the film lab refused to develop any more film and kept the stock that was already shot. One of the principals of the Sepia Arts was a neighbor and before he passed away 20 years ago I asked what the plot of the movie was and even he was not sure. The film was about 40 years ago, so has nothing to do with any book written since or the Kirk Franklin song.
The building is now a church named Word of Faith Ministries and has digital projection equipment for family films as part of their outreach. The Lucas County Auditor records show the building as constructed in 1917.
View link is a listing of Cleveland area theatres along with addresses, dates of operation and operators from which some of the data above was found.
There were multiple attempts around the country to have a second downtown. The area by the Fox St Louis, by the Fisher Building in Detroit. Usually it was where multiple streetcar lines split away from a main intersection a distance from downtown. Huge downtown department type stores usually did not develop, so retail was less dense. Loew’s Park became a loosing proposition and ceased to show movies much earlier than other theatres and became a church, with a very interesting lot of stories about it. That is why there was so little remodeling that was normal for theatres with even fair grosses. The lobby outlasted the theatre as a store for several years and was the least real estate needed to access the huge theatre in the middle of the block.
Cinema I was not a genuine Cinerama installation but by coincidence had a similar curved screen and traveller curtain, which was spectacular and nearly identical to the Cinerama specifications, what is the chances of that happening? Cinema II had a “shadow box” flat screen with no curtains which was lit by colored light and a horrible thing to look at. Later the curved screen in Cinema I was replaced with a much smaller flat screen so it could be equally bad as the other auditoriums. I saw 2001 a Space Odyssey there opening week and there were only 5 other people in the house, it instantly became one of my top films of all time and a typical Stanley Kubrick film, which is to say nothing like any other Stanley Kubrick film.
Winston Willis gave myself and several friends a quick tour when he had it. The auditorium had lots of restaurant and business equipment in storage from a used fixture business he ran. Very little of the lighting worked and some of the stairways were nearly filled with inventory as well. He was and is a very interesting person who was truly wronged by the big shots of the era.
It was huge for a theatre so far from downtown. Typical Lamb design but in my list of top 10 most decayed theatres. Rain had washed so much plaster away that the basement filled up about 4 feet deep with the plaster dust, which set up and looked and felt like a level concrete floor. The ventilation penthouse had a wood floor that was too rotted to walk on, especially knowing it was a huge drop to the ceiling below if it let go. I have a couple of box seats that survived a fire and salvaged the marble from the lower steps of the grand staircase as part of a contents purchase form the church that still owned it. It did not get any later remodelling that many Lamb theatres got and the flower well was still open under the balcony to the seating below. We had to bring in a generater and several thousannd watts of lighting to get pictures.
I visited it right before demolition and it was a huge and complex place. The upper balcony looked across to a flat wall way above the proscenium. There was a stairway for the top balcony balcony that had a railing down the middle for crowd safety and winded up many flights of steps with no other doors until you actually got to the balcony. The rehearsal hall had been used by a radio station and was huge as well with South facing windows, so there was natural light, the West wall of that room was the wall the upper balcony faced since it was over the auditorium. I need to look at my pictures again which shows it was similar gargantuan size like the Philadelphia Met and the Auditorium chicago.
Was this the theatre with the Carrier air conditioning rotory compressor in a vault under the alley that you had to get to by going through the basement air conditioning ducts?
I got to explore and photograph the Teck in the late 1970’s. There was a huge attic space above the ceiling with ghost outlines on the walls where the balcony had been and bits of surviving decorative plaster that escaped the 1945 gutting of the building. The Cenarama booths on the sides of the theatre were quite far down the auditorium to get the throw correctly to the sides of the screen with flat windows at an angle to the sidewalls. As a Cinerama theatre it must have had a very tunnel like effect for the rear of the auditorium. The place was pretty dirty as well with a lot of air handling dust on the walls and ceiling.