Today at CAPA we have another reason to celebrate, aside from St. Patrick’s Day, it is also the 88th birthday of the Ohio Theatre! The Ohio is not only a world-class venue that is both a state and national landmark where we get to arrange and watch entertaining shows year round, but it is also the reason why CAPA exists in the first place. Our history with the Ohio only goes back to 1969 but we would like to take the time to celebrate and remember just what a dramatic history the Ohio has been through.
After opening day on March 17, 1928 the Ohio gave the stage to many talented vaudeville era performers including Milton Berle, Jean Harlow, and a young emcee with a violin Jack Benny! The Ohio was originally built for silent movies, and then when talking movies took over completely in 1934 it stopped holding live performances. However many movie stars traveled with their movies to promote them, Jean Harlow and Judy Garland both made appearances at the Ohio!
After WWII, times started changing for the Ohio, attendance was dropping, which couldn’t support a large movie house for long until 1969 when the theatre was sold from Loew to a real estate firm. Many believed at the time that this would be the final curtain for the Ohio, since it was threatened to be put under the wrecking ball to build a new state office tower. A few groups banded together to save the Ohio, but CAPA was the only one successful enough to raise $2.5 million, to buy back and restore it.
Since the successful rescue of the Ohio, there has been nothing but success, it was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, then declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978, and named “Official Theatre for the State of Ohio.” Columbus resident Mary Bishop, who led the restoration effort from 1969-1984, was honored by the National Trust for keeping the Ohio close to the original set up Loew, Lamb, and Dornan envisioned 88 years ago.
So the next time you walk into the Ohio for a performance by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Broadway in Columbus, the Summer Movie Series, or any of the other great shows our theatre hosts, take a look around and remember the struggles and sacrifices from the creators, the founders and employees of CAPA, and volunteers that got the Ohio to where it is today. Lastly, remember that it is you, the audience, that has given the Ohio the recognition and home it deserves. The Ohio continues to be a center piece of art and culture in Columbus for 88 years because of the people who love to come here and treat it like home. Thank you for making it possible for all of us at CAPA to say “Happy birthday, Ohio Theatre!”
And now, a clip to show you the history that the Ohio has experienced!