Theater in Cleveland Ohio

Variety Store Building and Theatre, Cleveland Ohio
Date added: December 21, 2022 Categories: Ohio Theater
Theater lobby (1980)

The Variety Store Building and Theatre is one of the few remaining multiple-use buildings containing a theater located on the West Side of Cleveland. Since the West Side has always been culturally distinct because of the topography of the Cuyahoga valley and the settlement patterns of the city. At the time of its construction, the Variety Theatre was considered to rank among Cleveland's finest. A large number of similar West Side theaters, including the Granada, the Lyric, and the Tivoli, have been demolished. While the commercial fronts are not architecturally distinguished, the theater is an excellent and well-preserved example of the more restrained classical aspect of the 1920s movie theater style, in contrast to the "atmospheric" palaces and other exotic styles. In this respect, it is one of only a handful remaining in Cleveland.

The Variety Building was constructed in 1927 by entrepreneurs Sam Stecker, Meyer Fine and Abe Kramer. The architect was Nicola Petti, a Cleveland architect who designed at least four other Cleveland theaters. The Variety Theatre was used for both films and vaudeville from its opening. Among the early tenants of the store building were bakers, confectioners, a fruit merchant, a milliner, and apartment residents. In 1929 the Variety Building was sold to Warner Brothers, the famous motion picture syndicate whose origins began in a Youngstown, Ohio, family. It was purchased by Wargo Realty in 1954 in one of the largest real estate transactions involving theater property in Cleveland since the Depression.

Building Description

This is a two-story commercial and apartment building containing a 1900-seat theater. It is constructed of steel, concrete, and brick. The plan is an irregular trapezoid, with the facade measuring approx. 230 feet, the rear elevation 210 feet, and the east and west elevations 170 feet and 78 feet respectively. The facade opens into ten commercial spaces plus the theater lobby. The second story contains twelve apartments with suites of two to five rooms each. The facade and side elevations of the building are faced with brick, with stone coping and a metal cornice. The second-story facade has plain rectangular double windows with double-hung sash. There is a recessed central entrance to the second-floor apartments. Above the theater marquee, the lobby wall has a curved parapet with urns and a large segmental-arched window.

The theater lobby is not perpendicular to the external facade; a curved set of entrance doors compensates for the awkward angle. The lobby has an arched ornamental plaster ceiling of three bays, framing a giant semi-elliptical window on the front wall which fills the entire width of the lobby; on the inner wall a semi-elliptical mirror of the same size reflects the window. The original cut-glass chandelier hangs from the ceiling.

The lobby leads to a long rectangular foyer with a low coved plaster ceiling. There is a stairway from the foyer to the balcony. The auditorium is basically rectangular, measuring 81 feet by 102 feet. The main floor has three aisles and seats 1550 persons; the balcony seats 350. The ceiling is a flattened vault with seven transverse bays which meet the wall in groined arches. The three bays nearest the proscenium diminish in width and end in arched bays which have vestigial boxes containing indirect lighting. The ceiling of these three bays is ornamented with raised plaster ribbing in a diamond pattern. All of these interior spaces are virtually unaltered. A forestage has been built over the original orchestra pit, which is intact. The stage measures 56 feet by 25 feet, and the backstage area contains three dressing rooms.

Variety Store Building and Theatre, Cleveland Ohio North facade (1980)
North facade (1980)

Variety Store Building and Theatre, Cleveland Ohio West and south elevations (1980)
West and south elevations (1980)

Variety Store Building and Theatre, Cleveland Ohio Theater lobby (1980)
Theater lobby (1980)

Variety Store Building and Theatre, Cleveland Ohio Theater auditorium (1980)
Theater auditorium (1980)

Variety Store Building and Theatre, Cleveland Ohio Theater auditorium (1980)
Theater auditorium (1980)