Akron Civic Theatre

182 South Main Street,
Akron, OH 44308

Unfavorite 21 people favorited this theater

Akron Civic Theatre - View from rear balcony

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened as Loew’s Akron Theatre on April 20, 1929, the Atmospheric styled and opulent theater was designed by John Eberson. Integrating Moorish and Mediterranean design, the Civic Theatre is one of the largest Atmospheric style theaters still in existence.

Restored in 2000, and still beautifully maintained, the renamed Akron Civic Theatre is the focal point of the arts community in this Ohio college town.

Contributed by JB Lewis

Recent comments (view all 70 comments)

Patsy on July 1, 2011 at 7:09 pm

I have toured this 1929 theatre and told about and saw the concrete stilts over the Ohio canal.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm

A number of earlier comments have noted the narrowness of the Akron Civic Theatre’s entrance, but I don’t think anyone has commented on why it is so narrow, or why it is designed in such a different architectural style than Eberson’s Moorish-Spanish theater. In fact, the theater’s entrance was designed by a different architect, C. Howard Crane, and it was built about a decade before the theater itself.

Originally, the current theater entrance was intended to be only one entrance to a large project called the Hippodrome Arcade, which was to have included a glass-roofed galleria lined with thirty shops as well as a theater with some 3000 seats. As told in this Akron Beacon Journal article, the Hippodrome Arcade Company was founded in 1917 by L. Oscar Beck, but the project proved to be too ambitious, and the company collapsed in 1921. Only the entrance building with its Italian Renaissance facade was completed.

In late 1926, Marcus Loew bought the property at a sheriff’s auction. Crane’s original plans were abandoned, and Loew’s Akron Theatre was built on part of the site that Beck had intended for the shopping arcade (the original plans had the Hippodrome Theatre at the far end of the arcade, adjacent to Water Street, where there is now a parking lot.) Crane’s original entrance building was only slightly modified when the new theater was built, and thus retains its Italian style.

TivFan on November 29, 2012 at 9:23 am

I’ve read through the commments about the photos, etc. Do you realize you can take the Google Street View into the interior of the theatre? It is amazing! I have a postcard (c. 1940’s) of an aerial view of downtown Akron which shows the auditorium building, with LOEW’S painted on it.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 29, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Thanks for the clue about Street View, TivFan. I had no idea this was available. Everybody should check this out! You can go right down to the stage and use the zoom feature to get a close-up view of the organ console, and close-ups of all the decorations along the way.

normstern on October 13, 2014 at 7:59 pm

I have reviewed all 64 comments to date and totally enjoy the memories! Loew’s was the finest downtown theater in my opinion, a lot because of Wild Oscar playing the organ while the audience sang along, I believe, to the words on the screen. I saw only one comment about the ceiling mentioning the small lights like stars. But, besides the stars there were also DRIFTING CLOUDS

normstern on October 13, 2014 at 9:06 pm

I didn’t get to complete my comment! Yes, DRIFTING CLOUDS!!! This was in the 1940s and 1950s! I have always wondered how they produced those clouds! One other commenter remarked about nearby restaurants. One correct spelling was Garden Grille. Correct for the other was Kaase’s, which was on Mill Street and where my aunt used to work, opposite the Colonial theater. One comment about the Colonial mentioned three steep balconies, but of three levels only two were balconies, and that second balcony really was steep! Another commenter thought downtown Akron’s Main Street was perhaps not as busy as he remembered it being…I say OH YES it was! The wide sidewalks were always full of people, both shoppers and people in between busses! All bus routes but one in Akron traversed Main Street and stopped in front of Polsky’s department store going one way, and across the street in front of 0'neil’s department store on their return trip. I know because as a young teen I used to use my mother’s weekly bus pass, ride any bus to end of line and coming back on the other side of the street I would get off and then get on next bus coming and ride it to end and back, and repeat! Other downtown theaters I did not see mentioned were Strand, Palace (had also a balcony-level entrance from High St.), and Forum. I know there was one more south of O'neil’s but don’t recall name. One other comment did mention the Orpheum which was at the north end of S. Main St. at East Market St. Someone mentioned population of I believe 200,000, but as I recall, Akron population in the busy 40s was 250,000, most of whom rode busses past all those theaters every week, except on the Crosstown route taking so many people with second jobs between Goodyear on the east side and Goodrich and Firestone on the west! One more Main St. theater was the Gaiety(sp?), but it did NOT show movies! There were probably about fifteen more neighborhood theaters in Akron at that time! I can only recall Norka, Rialto, Royal, Gem, Ellet, Highland?, Goodyear Heights?, Spicer. This has been fun to recall! Thanks for the opportunity!

Akronflicks on October 28, 2015 at 12:04 am

Lowes was the best theater in Akron, plush carpet, very clean, classy architecture, the moving clouds…and that burgundy pop in the machine was great. I always thought the popcorn machine made better popcorn than the concession stand sold too.

We’d hit Walgreens or Mr. Peanut and stock up on reasonably priced snacks. You can’t get away with that today.

We walked there, or to other downtown theaters, from Oak Park Drive near Glendale Cemetery, every weekend.

I saw a lot of great movies at Lowes. All the “big” movies seemed to play there.

I have to take the wife there some day.

Akron’s movie theaters were a big part of my childhood up till seventh grade when we moved away.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 28, 2015 at 11:28 pm

Akronflicks: I’ve read tens of thousands of comments on Cinema Treasures over the years, and yours is the first in which anyone has mentioned burgundy pop (or soda, as we called it in California.) There was burgundy soda in the machine at the Garfield Theatre in Alhambra, California, in the late 1950s. I don’t remember it being available in any of the other dozen or so theaters I frequented in those days, nor have I seen it anywhere since.

I’m glad to hear they also had it in Akron, as I was beginning to think I’d just imagined it. Burgundy soda must have been mass produced if it appeared in both Alhambra and Akron, but I can’t find it mentioned anywhere on the Internet. It was indeed tasty, and I always especially looked forward to going to the Garfield so I could get a cup or two of it. I wonder whatever became of it?

Akronflicks on October 29, 2015 at 11:20 am

Not only tasty, but more fizzy than what you would get at the concession stand. I was always about the fizz. That’s why I drink slightly flavored sparkling water nowadays instead of pop/soda.

It was in one of those red machines that dispensed cups. And you had to be ready to right the cup if it came down crooked.

It had a stainless steel dial that was shaped round except for the triangular shape on the right that pointed to your selection. You dialed the pop you wanted by pointing the dial at the name of three pop/soda selections. I was always ticked when it was out of burgundy and had to select something else, but you had to or risk not getting your dime, later fifteen cents, back.

Akron’s Lowes was the only place I ever saw it.

I tried to Google the machine and looked at a lot of machines, but never one that matched the one at Lowes.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 29, 2015 at 1:52 pm

The Garfield’s machines were of the ordinary push-button type. I don’t recall ever seeing one with a dial selector anywhere. But the cups still came down crooked pretty often. The Garfield’s first machine had only ordinary soft drink brands, but it proved so popular that they installed a second machine, and that was the one that had the burgundy in it.

On weekend nights the theater was still very busy in those days- at least it was after they had dropped their ninety cent top price to fifty cents for all seats- and at intermission there were usually lines for both machines. But I don’t remember them ever running out of burgundy. Most of my fellow suburbanites probably weren’t adventurous enough to even try it.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater