Friday, April 1, 2016

Allen Theatre

Today is the 95th anniversary of the opening of the Allen Theatre. The 3,009 seat Allen, at 1407 Euclid Avenue was designed by C. Howard Crane for Jule and Jay J. Allen who were Canadian exhibitors expanding into the American market. This expansion did not go well for them, about a year later Marcus Loew acquired the theatre.
 Drawing of the proposed new Allen Theatre, the finished product looked nothing like this. From Motion Picture News, August 9, 1919.
Architects drawing of the auditorium, from Motion Picture News, January 22, 1921.
A premature opening announcement, from Motion Picture News, January 22, 1921.
Another premature announcement, from Exhibitor's Herald, January 29, 1921. The Allen's also opened the Capitol Theatre at 1390 West 65th Street around the same time.
Opening attraction, from The Plain Dealer, April 4, 1921.
From Variety, April 8, 1921.
From The Plain Dealer, April 2, 1921.
From The Plain Dealer, April 2, 1921.
The Allen Theatre, April 1921, the Ohio and Loew's State are on the right. Keith's Palace is in the early stages of construction and is not yet visible. From the Playhouse Square Archives.
Box office, from Architectural Record, November 1921.
Outer lobby, from Architectural Record, November 1921.
Allen Theatre rotunda, from Motion Picture News, April 30, 1921.
Men's Lounge, from Motion Picture News, April 30, 1921. This is located on the left side of the rotunda.
Tea Room, from Motion Picture News, April 30, 1921. This is located on the right side of the rotunda.
Mezzanine, house left side, from Motion Picture News, April 30, 1921. The opening on the right goes to the upper balcony, on the left to the lower balcony, and to the opposite side of the rotunda. The door in the middle was my office in 1972.
View from balcony, from Architectural Record, November 1921.
Organ grills and faux boxes, from Architectural Record, November 1921.
Side walls, from Architectural Record, November 1921.
Elliptical dome, from Architectural Record, November 1921.
Dome, from Architectural Record, November 1921.
Projection room, from Motion Picture News, April 30, 1921.
From Exhibitor's Herald, May 7, 1921.
S. Barrett McCormick, from Exhibitor's Trade Review, November 26, 1921.
From Variety, June 3, 1921. Lack of quality films forced McCormick to concentrate on stage productions.
Musical director Philip Spitalny, from Exhibitor's Trade Review, November 26, 1921.
Allen Theatre orchestra, from Exhibitor's Trade Review, November 4, 1922.
McCormick and musical director Phil Spitalny produced their own prologues, often with spectacular results. From Motion Picture News, August 20, 1921.
From Motion Picture News, August 27, 1921.
From Motion Picture News, September 3, 1921.
From Motion Picture News, November 19, 1921.
From Motion Picture News, November 19, 1921.
Some of the initial attractions during the McCormick era, from Exhibitor's Trade Review, December 17, 1921.
From The Plain Dealer, February 12, 1922.
Loew's acquires the Allen, from Variety, June 30, 1922.
From Motion Picture News, January 26, 1923.
From Film Daily, January 21, 1926.
Loew makes changes, from Moving Picture World, February 6, 1926.
New Allen manager, Langan was only in Cleveland for a short time, from Motion Picture News, April 24, 1926.
From Motion Picture News, March 20, 1926.
 From Motion Picture News, August 7, 1926.
From Motion Picture News, August 14, 1926.
From The Plain Dealer, April 1, 1927.
From Film Daily, May 19, 1927.
From The Plain Dealer, August 25, 1927.
From Film Daily, October 12, 1927.
From Motion Picture News, July 28, 1928.
 From Motion Picture News, September 22, 1928.
Arnold Gates lated managed most of the local Loew houses at one time or another over the next 40 years. From Variety, October 3, 1928.
From Exhibitors Herald - World, September 6, 1930.
From Exhibitors Herald - World, October 11, 1930.
From Motion Picture Daily, June 22, 1931.
From Motion Picture Herald, July 16, 1932.
From The Plain Dealer, July 21, 1933.
From Universal Weekly, February 10, 1934.
Giant birthday cake for Margaret Sullavan, from Motion Picture Herald, September 15, 1934.
From The Plain Dealer, September 23, 1943.
From Motion Picture Herald, November 18, 1944.
From Motion Picture Herald, December 23, 1944.
War Bond booth, from Motion Picture Herald, January 6, 1945.
Flash front from Motion Picture Herald, December 1, 1945.
Flash front from Motion Picture Herald, April 19, 1947.
Miracle on 34th Street ballyhoo, from Motion Picture Herald, July 5, 1947.
 From Motion Picture Daily, October 23, 1951.
From The Plain Dealer, March 16, 1952.
 Warners moves their offices from the Warner Brothers building at 2300 Payne to the Allen, from Motion Picture Daily, May 29, 1952.
The Allen was the first theatre in Cleveland to show 3-D pictures, from Box Office, January 10, 1953.
From The Plain Dealer, January 22, 1953.
From Box Office, January 31, 1953.
From Box Office, February 7, 1953.
From Box Office, July 11, 1953.
From an article on good lighting in Box Office, September 4, 1954. The front still looked like this into the early 1970's.
From The Plain Dealer, April 15, 1955.
Hoodlums attack ushers at Loew's Stillman and Warner's Allen, from The Plain Dealer, December 9, 1957.
From Box Office, December 28, 1957.
Manager Higley shot in robbery, from The Plain Dealer, December 13, 1959.
Front for Black Sunday, from Box Office, March 13, 1961.
Contest for Black Sunday, from Box Office, April 3, 1961.
 Closed for remodeling, from The Plain Dealer, June 9, 1961.
Re-opening attraction, from The Plain Dealer, June 18, 1961.
 From Box Office, June 26, 1961.
New DP-70's in the booth, from Box Office, November 6, 1961. Note the image is reversed, the Allen didn't really have a booth for left handed projectionists.
From The Plain Dealer, June 22, 1961.
From Box Office, November 6, 1961.
From Box Office, June 26, 1961.
From Box Office, November 25, 1963.
From The Plain Dealer, July 4, 1964.
From The Plain Dealer, January 7, 1967. Endless Summer is the greatest surfing film ever made. Multiple theatre showings were taking a toll on downtown houses across the country.
From The Plain Dealer, March 5, 1968. The Allen closed forever, but a lease running until 1971 required them to show pictures 50 weeks a year. The Allen soon re-opened, playing mostly third rate pix until Stanley Warner could extricate themselves from the lease.
From The Plain Dealer, April 25, 1968.
 From The Plain Dealer, April 26, 1968.
 The Allen again closes, from The Plain Dealer, May 7, 1968.

However the owners of the Bulkley Building which houses the Allen began to lease the theatre for one-nighters.
From The Plain Dealer, May 16, 1968.
From The Plain Dealer, November 22, 1968.
From The Plain Dealer, February 14, 1970. This was an added show following two SROs the previous night.
Ray Shepardson, a man with a plan to save the Allen and the three adjoining theatres slowly begins to gain support. From The Plain Dealer, July 23, 1970.
Marquee, November 1971, Larry Nighswander photo.
Rotunda, 1971, William Gesten/Foto Arts Inc.
Elliptical dome, William Gesten/Foto Arts Inc.
Auditorium, William Gesten/Foto Arts Inc. The 1961 renovation cut the capacity to 2,860.
The Budapest Symphony, the first Playhouse Square Association production, from The Plain Dealer Action Tab, November 19, 1971.
The Budapest Symphony Orchestra on the stage, November 21, 1971. William Gesten/Foto Arts Inc. A few weeks before this event, Smitty extended the stage over the orchestra pit, much to the chagrin of IATSE 27.
From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, March 17, 1972. Interspersed with the PSA productions were numerous one-nighters. This was also my first day at Playhouse Square
From The Plain Dealer, April 24, 1972.
From The Plain Dealer, May 7, 1972.
 From The Plain Dealer, March 9, 1973.
 From The Plain Dealer, March 23, 1973.
 From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, April 6, 1973.
From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, May 4, 1973.
From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, October 12, 1973.
From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, January 25, 1974.
 From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, April 5, 1974.
 From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, April 5, 1974.
From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, April 12, 1974.
 From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, May 17, 1974.
From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, October 25, 1974. Roger Bohn of the Smiling Dog produced a number of shows at the Allen. Miles Davis was booked into the Allen at least three different times, this was the one time when he actually appeared. I'll always remember Miles up in the balcony, house right side, blowing crazy notes on his trumpet a few hours before showtime.
From The Plain Dealer, January 19, 1975. At the last performance a harness snapped and Judas was almost hung.
From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, March 14, 1975.
From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, May 25, 1975. The Bee Gees played to a few hundred people that night, a couple years later they filled a 20,000 seat arena.
From The Plain Dealer Action Tab, April 2, 1976.

In the Fall of 1976 Millcap leased the lobby of the Allen to a group of restaurateurs which transformed the lobby into a restaurant known as The Old Allen.
 Paul Georgeadis, one of the restaurants principals, from The Plain Dealer, September 15, 1976.
The auditorium was transformed into the Laserium, the main floor seats were removed and a huge laser dome was built. A hallway was cut through the former managers office into the lobby of the Bulkley building for Laserium access.
Laserium dome, from the Cleveland memory Project.
From The Plain Dealer Friday Magazine, September 9, 1977.

Neither of these lasted very long, the Laserium closed in 1978, the Old Allen closed in early 1979. By late summer a new restaurant was opened in the Lobby, Yesterdays, which suffered the same problems as it's predecessor. Yesterdays closed in early 1983.

The Allen then began to seriously deteriorate. Millcap sold the Bulkley Building a few years later to a group headed by William West. West had plans to raze the Allen and replace it with a small shopping center. This was met with some opposition.
 A forum discussion on the future of the Allen was held at Loew's Ohio theatre on December 12, 1987.                
Flyer from the Save the Allen rally held on December 23, 1987.
Ray Shepardson returned to Cleveland for the rally, from The Plain Dealer, December 24, 1987.

The end result was the Allen was saved, and today is used by Cleveland State University and the Cleveland Playhouse. It is part of the Playhouse Square Entertainment complex.

1 comment:

Bill Grulich said...

Hi Frank,

Love the retrospective!

Thank you,

Bill