Variety Theatre

11815 Lorain Avenue,
Cleveland, OH 44111

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Variety Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Warner Brothers opened the Variety Theatre in the 1920’s, and became independent by the 1950’s. The theatre, a huge theatre with a balcony, had shown sub-run films during the 1970’s, and brought in cult midnight movies in the early-1980’s. The theatre was also used as a “haunted theatre” for a couple of years in the 1980’s, in which there was a haunted tour of the theatre, while horror films were playing on the screen.

Lack of off street parking and the high cost of utilities and other expenses for a single screen theatre forced the Variety Theatre to close in 1984. Later on, a private school in the Cleveland area, Freedom Academy, used the theatre as a performing arts school. A boxing academy last occupied the Variety Theatre.

Since 2006, the Variety Theatre has been in the process of restoration and renovation by new owners, the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre, which hopes to reopen the theatre as a venue for both on-screen and live peformances.

Contributed by Toby Radloff

Recent comments (view all 33 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 29, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Chuck, Mike seldom cites his sources, so I don’t know where the unquestioned dates he uses come from. The dates (and other bits of information) with question marks must be his surmises, or are taken from sources he thinks might be unreliable. I’ve often found his lists very useful, though I usually try to double check his information before I cite it here.

The multiple listing of individual theaters under their different aka’s can be confusing, but can also be useful because they are arranged alphabetically. I’ve sometimes used Mike’s list to track down aka’s that are missing from Cinema Treasures pages.

As for seat counts, I’ve found just about everybody’s to be questionable. It’s not only because the original sources (managers, owners, Boxoffice stringers) are sometimes unreliable, but because seat counts often changed even in houses that hadn’t been fully reseated or remodeled. A theater with declining business might close a balcony to save on upkeep costs (or to avoid hiring two projectionists), leading to a sudden drop in reported capacity; or seats from the front of the house might be moved to replace broken-down seats farther back (a fairly common practice) leading to a creeping reduction in overall capacity.

In more recent times, a drop in capacity of a dozen or so could be the result of retrofitting the house for wheelchair spaces. But seat counts are useful primarily to give an idea of the general size of a theater anyway, so if they are off by a handful I don’t think it’s a big problem. If they are off by hundreds, I’d like to know why.

Also note that Mike does revise his lists, making corrections and filling in gaps, often incorporating information that he finds at Cinema Treasures or CinemaTour (a couple of times he’s even quoted from posts I’ve made here.) Cinema Treasures (and to a lesser extent CiemaTour) can update with corrections and new information more quickly, though, as they both have numerous contributors, while Rivest’s Lists are apparently a one-man project.

RhondaFleming
RhondaFleming on September 12, 2010 at 9:08 pm

The Variety Theatre holds many treasured memories. Growing up in the neighborhood, I saw all the classic horror movies there, then some of the BEST concerts I have EVER seen in my life!
“They” have been saying for years that they are “restoring” it, but it has sat an empty ghost of multitudes, and we would love to see it
fixed and made into a concert hall again.
Some of the BEST concerts that I saw and met numerous bands are, Motorhead, Slayer, Saxon, Accept, Helix, Mercyful Fate, Queensryche, Fastway, and so many of the greatest of the 80’s.
Cleveland does indeed LOVE Rock N Roll!

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on September 12, 2010 at 9:26 pm

The restoration project may have stalled (probably due to the economy) but the project does have an active website with some pictures on its pages: http://www.varietytheatrecleveland.com/home

rivest266
rivest266 on March 13, 2011 at 10:25 am

This opened on Thanksgiving 1927. ad: View link

Pbear42
Pbear42 on November 12, 2011 at 11:08 am

Great postings. Love Cinema Treasures. The Variety Theatre WILL be renovated. It’s not a matter of IF only WHEN. Yes the economy has taken a toll on The Friends of the Variety Theatre’s efforts BUT fear not- it will happen. I can say that efforts are underway as building owners to shore up our financial picture and in the future you will see changes and restoration coming. It’s a slow (too slow for me-but that’s the way these things go)and arduous process. The plan is to bring The Variety back to it’s original splendor with a multi-use (see-Variety). We sponsored a “pop up” event in August 2011 and have plans for the next “pop up” on DECEMBER 3rd, 2011 from 12pm-5pm. There will be refreshments and entertainment throughout the afternoon in front of the Theatre. Plans are to showcase some elements of the outer and inner lobby so come on down! Hope to see you there December 3rd! Check our website (up again next week at www.varietytheatrecleveland.com for updates and more information). Here’s to preservation of our past and renovation for our future.

bwaynef
bwaynef on March 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I went to the Variety only twice, once in 1965 to see “Two on a Guillotine” and a second feature whose title escapes me, and ten years later to see “Tommy” in its second run. Nice theater but nothing special if I recall.

mrrusty
mrrusty on April 4, 2012 at 11:05 am

My Grandfather, Sam Stecker, built the variety theatre along with his partner, Meyer Fine. My father worker as an usher there in his youth. Donald Stecker

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on July 6, 2012 at 7:02 am

I recently photographed the Variety Theatre check out the post at After the Final Curtain

rlausche
rlausche on September 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Community Circuit own this theater in the 60’s and 70’s. Shelly Silverman was the manger till he took over the village when it open. I was in there once.

mcpierogipazza
mcpierogipazza on July 9, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I only went after it had switched to concerts. I saw REM and INXS there in 1984 or 1985.

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