I’m excited to announce that I’ll once again be partnering with photographer/founder of Abandoned America, Matthew Christopher for photo workshops in 2016!
First, we will be returning to the Victory Theatre in Holyoke, MA on April 9, 2016. The Victory Theatre opened on December 30, 1920 and closed 58 years late on December 15, 1978. It is currently owned by the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, who plan to renovate the theater and reopen it as a performing arts center. Past workshops have generated over $4000 for MIFA.
We will also be returning to the Variety Theatre in 2016. The details for that workshop will be announced at a later date.
The Variety opened on November 24, 1927 and after a number of different uses (including a wrestling gym called the Cleveland Wrestleplex) closed in the late 1980s. The building was purchased by the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre on June 12, 2009, and they plan to restore the theater as a multi-use venue.
I recently spoke with Patrick Colvin of the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre. The Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre own and are restoring the Variety Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio.
1. Who are the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre?
“The Friends of The Historic Variety Theatre are a group of local, concerned residents, business people and experts in historic properties.”
2. How did you get involved with the restoration of the Variety Theatre?
“As Westown Board of Directors Vice-President at the time, and area resident- in 2007 not long after the Variety Board was formed- I was asked to take a position for outgoing board member Chad Dasher (Westown’s Executive Director) to report activities and updates back to Westown’s Board, in addition to the fact that I’m a BIG historic building preservation buff.”
3. Why is it important that the theater be renovated?
“The building complex is a classic example of 20th century neighborhood investment. A “city within a city” if you will. As an “Economic Engine” this complex of Theatre, apartments and storefronts can be the center of neighborhood redevelopment- bringing back the area with economic activity and vitality and just like the spokes of a wheel- spurring additional investment in the area.
The beauty of the original space just simply must not be lost and could never be replicated in this day.”
4. How are the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre raising money for the restoration of the building?
“Currently, through small fundraisers and continuing awareness campaigns-several “pop up” events bringing people, residents and local merchants and artists together to see what great potential the neighborhood has. Additionally, we continue to have interest into “ghost hunts” by local and state groups wanting to tour the space and have developed a “tour fee” structure to help pay re-curring bills in the short term as we work out the final financing package with the bank to settle the financial difficulties we’ve encountered-as we work to gain “clear title”.
Once resolved- we can push for the larger fundraising drives needed to push the project to completion.”
5. What is your favorite personal memory about the theater?
“While I came into the Variety’s life in it’s later years- I remember the throngs of people who would come for a movie or a live show-to relax and enjoy the beauty of “The Lady on Lorain”.
It is perennial and cross-generational. The Variety is a GEM and crown jewel of this neighborhood and while she’s a bit tarnished- she will shine again. I remember those crowds and I continue to want to be part of the solution and help restore the beauty and granduer of this wonderful palace of entertainment for all to enjoy.”
The Variety is one of the 24 theaters in my new book “After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater.” Find out more here.
The Variety Theatre opened on November 24, 1927 in the Jefferson neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. It was built by Sam Stecker, Meyer Fine and Abe Kramer of the Variety Amusement Company. The 1,900 seat theater was designed in the Spanish gothic style by Cleveland-based architect Nicola Petti, who also designed the nearby Cedar Lee Theatre. The Variety building also included retail space and twelve apartments.
I took the Greyhound bus from Chicago to Cleveland to photograph the last place on the road trip: The Variety Theatre. The theater opened on November 27, 1927, and closed in the 1980s. It was last in use as a wrestling venue called Wrestle Plex.
Full blog posts for all the theaters I visited on this trip are coming soon.