Variety Theatre

11815 Lorain Avenue,
Cleveland, OH 44111

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.

Architects: Nicola Petti

Styles: Spanish Gothic

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News About This Theater

Variety Theatre

The Variety Amusement Company opened the Variety Theatre on November 24, 1927 with Clara Bow in “Hula” and vaudeville on the stage. Guest organist Edward Benedict opened the Kimball organ. Seating was provided for 1,550 in the orchestra level and 350 in the balcony. There were 3 dressing rooms. In 1929 it was taken over by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp. and they operated it until 1954 when it was taken over by an independent operator. The huge vertical name sign on the façade was damaged by a tornado in 1953 and had to be removed. The theatre had shown sub-run films during the 1970’s, and brought in cult midnight movies in the early-1980’s. At the same time it became a rock music venue. The theatre was also used as a “haunted theatre” for a couple of years in the 1980’s, in which there was a haunted tour of the theatre, while horror films were playing on the screen.

Lack of off street parking and the high cost of utilities and other expenses for a single screen theatre forced the Variety Theatre to close in 1986. Later on, a private school in the Cleveland area, Freedom Academy, used the theatre as a performing arts school. A boxing academy last occupied the Variety Theatre until 1990.

Since 2006, the Variety Theatre has been in the process of restoration and renovation by new owners, the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre, which hopes to reopen the theatre as a venue for both on-screen and live performances. In September 2016 a replica of the original vertical name sign was installed and re-lit. The building was ‘For Sale’ in summer of 2021. The Variety Theatre is a Designated Cleveland Landmark.

Contributed by Toby Radloff

Recent comments (view all 37 comments)

Pbear42 on November 12, 2011 at 11:08 am

Great postings. Love Cinema Treasures. The Variety Theatre WILL be renovated. It’s not a matter of IF only WHEN. Yes the economy has taken a toll on The Friends of the Variety Theatre’s efforts BUT fear not- it will happen. I can say that efforts are underway as building owners to shore up our financial picture and in the future you will see changes and restoration coming. It’s a slow (too slow for me-but that’s the way these things go)and arduous process. The plan is to bring The Variety back to it’s original splendor with a multi-use (see-Variety). We sponsored a “pop up” event in August 2011 and have plans for the next “pop up” on DECEMBER 3rd, 2011 from 12pm-5pm. There will be refreshments and entertainment throughout the afternoon in front of the Theatre. Plans are to showcase some elements of the outer and inner lobby so come on down! Hope to see you there December 3rd! Check our website (up again next week at for updates and more information). Here’s to preservation of our past and renovation for our future.

bwaynef on March 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I went to the Variety only twice, once in 1965 to see “Two on a Guillotine” and a second feature whose title escapes me, and ten years later to see “Tommy” in its second run. Nice theater but nothing special if I recall.

mrrusty on April 4, 2012 at 11:05 am

My Grandfather, Sam Stecker, built the variety theatre along with his partner, Meyer Fine. My father worker as an usher there in his youth. Donald Stecker

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on July 6, 2012 at 7:02 am

I recently photographed the Variety Theatre check out the post at After the Final Curtain

rlausche on September 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Community Circuit own this theater in the 60’s and 70’s. Shelly Silverman was the manger till he took over the village when it open. I was in there once.

Tracy on July 9, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I only went after it had switched to concerts. I saw REM and INXS there in 1984 or 1985.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on March 24, 2017 at 7:55 am

The Variety is one of the 24 theaters in my new book, “After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater,” which is available on Amazon or your local bookstore

Texas2step on April 25, 2017 at 4:58 pm

This one opened on November 24, 1927.

TomMc11 on April 27, 2018 at 9:46 am

They have a “friends of” Facebook page.

The marquee has been renovated and is apparently turned on nightly. Not sure how much has happened inside but they have made progress!

JackCoursey on July 24, 2021 at 8:07 pm

The Variety Theatre is currently on the market for $400,000.

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