1407 Euclid Avenue,
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The Allen Theatre opened as a movie palace in April 1921 with Vera Gordon in “The Greatest Love”. It was designed by C. Howard Crane, and could seat around 3,000, making it Cleveland’s largest movie theatre at that time. For several decades, the Allen Theatre served as one of the grandest places in the city to see a motion picture, before falling into decline in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was finally shuttered in 1968, and was only spared at the last minute from being bulldozed for a parking lot. Workers had already begun dismantling the interior when the word came to halt demolition.
In an effort to bring the Allen Theatre’s plight for preservation to the forefront of Clevelanders, the Playhouse Square Association (which was formed in 1970) reopened the Allen Theatre in 1971 for a concert by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. For a year, a series of concerts and appearances by celebrities like Richard Harris and Lily Tomlin, were presented at the Allen Theatre.
As one of the components of Cleveland’s famed Playhouse Square, the Allen Theatre was fully restored to its 1920’s splendor. It original rather small stage house was demolished and a new stage house was built. It was now primarily used as a venue for touring Broadway shows and other live acts requiring a large stage.
The historical architecture remains and is partly visible behind the skeletal walls of the new performance space in the front part of the main auditorium. The balcony was walled off and remains behind the large sheetrock wall with only minimal damage. The two new performance spaces are in a new building adjacent to the Allen Theatre, connected by a walkway that comes into the existing walkway connecting the Allen Theatre with the Ohio Theatre.
The new constriction was designed to be reversible allowing for restoration of the original space.
However, in 2012, in what could be described as an act of sheer wanton vandalism, the auditorium was divided up into smaller auditoriums seating 514, 150 and 348. Sadly gone is the lavish Italian Renaissance style interior with its ‘heavenly’ ceiling mural and fine fixtures. Replaced by functional modern performance spaces.
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