RKO Albee Theatre
12 E. 5th Street,
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Architects: Thomas White Lamb
Styles: French Renaissance
Previous Names: E.F. Albee Photoplays Theatre
At a cost of $4 million, the 3,500-seat E.F. Albee Photoplays Theatre was considered Cincinnati’s finest movie palace. Opened on December 24, 1927 with Clara Bow in “Get Your Man” plus 5-acts of vaudeville on the stage. This Thomas W. Lamb designed palace was named after its builder, E. F. Albee, noted vaudeville theatre owner and a relative of famous playwright Edward Albee. The exterior facade was almost identical to the Thomas W. Lamb designed Empire Theatre, London, England which opened in November 1928. The E.F. Albee Photo Plays Theatre was equipped with a Wurlitzer 3 manual 19ranks organ with the console located on the left hand side of the orchestra pit. It was opened by organist Hy C. Geis The E.F. Albee Theatre was taken over by RKO in 1930.
Until 1960, the theatre booked stage show acts in addition to showing movies. Another source says the stage shows stopped as early as 1957. In the late-1960’s RKO donated the Wurlitzer organ to the Emory Auditorium of the Ohio Mechanics Institute. In late-1999 it was removed and put into storage. It was restored in 2007 and installed in the ballroom of the Music Hall. RKO closed the Albee Theatre on September 17, 1974 with Angie Dickinson in “Big Bad Mama. It stood boarded up until demolition which began on March 9, 1977 and was completed in December 1977.
The Westin Hotel was constructed in its place. Some portions of the theatre were saved and are now located in other buildings including Music Hall and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
The facade was one of the saved sections of the building and now sits on the 5th Street side of the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center – about 3 blocks from where the original theater once stood.
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