Variety Theatre

11815 Lorain Avenue,
Cleveland, OH 44111

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.

Architects: Nicola Petti

Styles: Spanish Gothic

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News About This Theater

Variety Theatre

The Variety Amusement Company opened the Variety Theatre on November 24, 1927 with Clara Bow in “Hula” and vaudeville on the stage. Guest organist Edward Benedict opened the Kimball organ. Seating was provided for 1,550 in the orchestra level and 350 in the balcony. There were 3 dressing rooms. In 1929 it was taken over by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp. and they operated it until 1954 when it was taken over by an independent operator. The huge vertical name sign on the façade was damaged by a tornado in 1953 and had to be removed. The theatre had shown sub-run films during the 1970’s, and brought in cult midnight movies in the early-1980’s. At the same time it became a rock music venue. 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 1986. 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 until 1990.

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 performances. In September 2016 a replica of the original vertical name sign was installed and re-lit. The building was ‘For Sale’ in summer of 2021. Restoration began in September 2022. The Variety Theatre is a Designated Cleveland Landmark.

Contributed by Toby Radloff

Recent comments (view all 38 comments)

bwaynef on March 9, 2012 at 8:22 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 on April 4, 2012 at 2:05 pm

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 10:02 am

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

rlausche on September 29, 2012 at 6:57 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.

Tracy on July 10, 2013 at 2:04 am

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

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on March 24, 2017 at 10:55 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

Texas2step on April 25, 2017 at 7:58 pm

This one opened on November 24, 1927.

TomMc11 on April 27, 2018 at 12:46 pm

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!

JackCoursey on July 24, 2021 at 11:07 pm

The Variety Theatre is currently on the market for $400,000.

Ssc48 on October 11, 2022 at 11:11 pm

Theatre is being restored!

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