Variety Theatre

11815 Lorain Avenue,
Cleveland, OH 44111

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Showing 1 - 25 of 35 comments

TomMc11 on April 27, 2018 at 9:46 am

They have a “friends of” Facebook page.

The marquee has been renovated and is apparently turned on nightly. Not sure how much has happened inside but they have made progress!

Texas2step on April 25, 2017 at 4:58 pm

This one opened on November 24, 1927.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on March 24, 2017 at 7:55 am

The Variety is one of the 24 theaters in my new book, “After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater,” which is available on Amazon or your local bookstore

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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 for updates and more information). Here’s to preservation of our past and renovation for our future.

rivest266 on March 13, 2011 at 10:25 am

This opened on Thanksgiving 1927. ad: View link

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:

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!

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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 28, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Chas: Mike Rivest’s list of Cleveland-Akron area theaters can be viewed online here at Scribd.

You can also download it in Excel spreadsheet format from a link on this page at Mike Rivest’s web site.

chspringer on June 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

Where can I find the list mentioned above? As a kid growing up in the 1950s, the Variety and Riverside where my two favorite hang outs.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 28, 2010 at 4:03 am

The Variety Theatre at Cleveland was opened by the well-established regional circuit, the Variety Amusement Company. On opening it became the company’s largest and most lavishly appointed theater. A 1927 issue of the Auburn, NY, Citizen ran an article about the Cleveland Variety’s new resident manager, Edward J. Wise, who had previously been manager of the palace Theatre in Auburn.

I’m not sure when Warner took over operation of the Variety (though it was certainly by 1938, when it was mentioned in the March 19 issue of Boxoffice), but I know that they took over another Variety Amusement Co. house, the Alhambra Theatre at Canton, Ohio, in the mid-1930s. It’s difficult to find information about the company, which is seldom mentioned in Boxoffice in later years, and then usually in the magazine’s “Twenty Years Ago” features. It appears to have gone into decline during the depression years.

The Variety Amusement Company is mentioned in connection with several Ohio theaters in Mike Rivest’s list of Cleveland theaters. The web site of the Lorain Palace Civic Center says that the company “…operated many theaters, primarily in Pennsylvania and Ohio, with 16 others in Northern Ohio alone.”

Tampopo on April 24, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Good times…never forget the Alarm, Long Ryders opened up—I caught one of the records thrown into the audience (records, has it been that long) and saw the legendary Jane Scott. Remember OMD too, IIRC, Home and Garden opened up. God, I wish. What’s going on there right now? Anything?

kurtisthall on May 13, 2009 at 5:00 am

The 1985 picture posted above was the Exciter show put on by JD 2 Productions. Ripper, the opener got into a fight with he crowd when power failure interrupted the show. Power was fixed and the show went off.

kurtisthall on May 11, 2009 at 8:05 am

Motorhead was ‘84 I guess. We tried to get fast food from a drivethrough after the show. Ha! My brother and his friend promoted a later show with Exciter. We helped load in the amps, which most were empty cabinets for show. Got to see the concert from backstage.

kurtisthall on May 11, 2009 at 6:52 am

The band that cracked the ceiling was Motorhead. I was at that show 1985 or 1986 I believe. Merciful Fate also played. Plaster was falling from the ceiling and the maintenance man tried to stop Motorhead from playing any more encores. He finally had to literally pull the switch on the breaker box, which really angered Lemmy from Motorhead.

chspringer on April 23, 2009 at 9:28 am

Just posting to re-link to the e-mail notifications.

kencmcintyre on April 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Here is a 1982 photo. I was wondering if that was the same Papa Johns that is now a national chain.

inkdjoseph on April 9, 2009 at 2:09 pm

I was at that same Motorhead concert in 1984 w/ Merciful Fate, and i have also seen Metallica, W.A.S.P., Saxon, Armored Saint, Breaker, Wendy-o-Williams, Shok Paris….Those were the best concerts i have ever went too. Just the smell, atmosphere and energy nothing could ever match up to that. I grew up on West 117th by Halloran Park and i had a historic childhood, thanks to the Variety Theater. I hope they host concerts some day after they restore her.

Toby on December 22, 2008 at 6:36 am

View link

Article in today’s Plain Dealer about the restoration of the Variety and LaSalle theaters.

hack on June 28, 2008 at 9:02 am

I was at the Variety Theater on 2/12/84 for the Motorhead show. Exciter from Canada and Mercyful Fate from Denmark opened for them.
The buzz outside the theater was the new record “Kill Em All” by a band called Metallica. Motorhead indeed was the loudest EVER, and I remember Lemmy saying to the crowd something like “they’re kicking us off” (the stage). The next day I believe I failed my 11th grade chemistry test. Later, I remember there was an article in Circus magazine that detailed how the “plaster fell from the ceiling” at the Motorhead show. I wish I still had that article. Anyways, the Variety was a great place to see live music!