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Allen Theatre ceiling detail
|Address||1407 Euclid Avenue
|Owner||Playhouse Square Foundation|
|Current use||Performing arts center|
|Architect||C. Howard Crane|
The Allen Theatre is one of the theaters in Playhouse Square, the performing arts center on Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. It was originally designed as a silent movie theatre by C. Howard Crane and opened its doors on April 1, 1921 with a capacity of more than 3,000 seats. The first movie shown was The Greatest Love and featured Phil Spitalny and his 35 piece orchestra. The Allen was designed in the Italian Renaissance style and represented one of the only “daylight atmospheric” theaters in the country with a ceiling painted to resemble the open daylight sky. In the lobby, a rotunda was built to resemble the Villa Madama in Rome. The ceiling of the rotunda was decorated with Renaissance style figures from an unknown artist’s imagination which greeted cinema patrons for decades.
By the mid-1960s, financial troubles plagued the Allen and the other downtown theaters. These were primarily caused by the popularity of television and the growing desire for local residents to move away from the city and into the suburbs. On May 7, 1968, the Allen Theatre was closed and remained vacant for nearly 30 years. When the Playhouse Square Association was formed in 1970 and began the revitalization process of the Connor Palace and State and Ohio Theatres, the Allen remained closed and slated for possible demolition until 1993 when Playhouse Square Foundation agreed to purchase it. Fully restored to its former glory, the Allen Theatre reopened on October 3, 1998 with 2,500 seats and became an important venue for hosting touring Broadway musicals and concerts.
In 2000 the Cleveland Ballet, which had been performing in the State Theatre, left the city and moved to San Jose, California. This vacancy opened the State to more Broadway shows but caused bookings for the Allen Theatre to decline. Playhouse Square began to pursue alternative uses for the Allen and eventually found it with two nearby organizations: Cleveland Play House and Cleveland State University.
Through a collaboration called “The Power of Three,” Cleveland Play House, Cleveland State University and Playhouse Square partnered and launch a $32 million renovation project to create the Allen Theatre Complex. The theater itself was closed in 2010, underwent a major reconfiguration and re-opened on September 16, 2011. The house reconfigured from seating 2,500 people to just under 500, creating a much more intimate theatrical setting. Large golden panels were installed along the walls of the theater to improve acoustics. They were installed in such a way so that they could be taken down again to restore the original artwork still decorating the theater. In addition, two new theater spaces were built as a result of the collaboration. The Outcalt Theatre (originally Second Stage) was constructed as a flexible performance space with multiple configuration possibilities and maximum seating of around 300. The Helen Rosenfeld Lewis Bialosky Lab Theatre, seating approximately 100 people, was also built as a black box theater to house the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House MFA Acting Program and other events throughout the year.