Cinema 1

69 Public Square,
Lima, OH 45801

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The Empire Theater opened in 1911. Around 1919 it was enlarged and re-named Sigma Theater. By 1941 it was operated by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp. It was badly damaged by a fire on March 1, 1949. In 1972, it had been closed for over ten years when William Dakota decided to reopen it as Cinema 1. The theater had been stripped of seats, projectors and screen. Restrooms were intact, and Dakota bought 325 used, self rising seats from W.S. Butterfield Theatres' Regent Theater in Flint, MI, that had closed and was to be demolished. He bought two used 35mm Simplex projectors from a collector and renovated the marquee with the new name Cinema 1.

He later sold the theater to Harold Mahoney of Durand, MI, who exhibited hardcore X-Rated films. Court action in the late-1970’s closed the theater and in 1981 the whole interior was stripped, with offices built inside. Around that time, the Ohio Theater, two blocks away also closed, as did the Quilna Theater and Ranger Theater, leaving downtown Lima with no operating movie theaters.

Contributed by Lost Memory, William Dakota

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on February 4, 2007 at 2:49 pm

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982

Sigma Theatre (added 1982 – Building – #82005083)
69 Public Sq., Lima
Historic Significance: Architecture/Engineering
Architect, builder, or engineer: Unknown
Architectural Style: Late 19th And Early 20th Century American Movements, Other
Area of Significance: Architecture
Period of Significance: 1900-1924
Owner: Private
Historic Function: Recreation And Culture
Historic Sub-function: Theater
Current Function: Recreation And Culture
Current Sub-function: Theater

kencmcintyre on August 13, 2007 at 1:07 am

Here is an ad from the Lima News dated 4/13/50:

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on May 29, 2008 at 1:10 pm

I’m curious about the ad in the above link. How could there be a grand opening in 1950 when this theater was in operation for years prior to that year. Was it a grand re-opening?

kencmcintyre on December 7, 2008 at 11:02 pm

It says “Newly Remodeled and Embellished”. They must have done some work on the theater at that time. Here is an April 1967 ad from the Lima News:

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on December 8, 2008 at 7:03 am

I guess they meant reopening.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm

This house opened in 1911 as the Empire Theatre. The April issue of Motography ran this notice:

“The Empire theater, Lima’s new moving picture house, was recently opened to the public by Messrs. H. B. Hoffman and H. B. Spencer. The decorations and equipment are elaborate in every detail and have been installed without regard to expense. There is a seating capacity of 300, fitted with opera chairs, and the floor inclines sufficiently to provide a clear view from any point in the house. On the opening night all patrons were presented with a bouquet of flowers.”
This 2011 article from (with two photos) says that the theater was enlarged and renamed the Sigma in late 1919-early 1920. It had another remodeling in 1931, and was was closed for a full year after the 1949 fire, reopening on March 1, 1950. The article doesn’t mention the theater closing in the 1960s, but only that it “fell on harder times” during that decade and operated as a second-run house. In its last years as the Cinema 1, adult films were shown. The conversion to office space took place in 1981.

rivest266 on February 2, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Uploaded a couple of ads from its adult days.

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