The Ohio Theatre: This Is Your Life!

By Elena Perantoni, Programming Assistant

Happy Birthday to yooooou….
Happy Birthday to yooooou….
Happy Birthday dear Ohio Theatre!
Happy Birthday to yooooou!!

[Music and original lyrics by Mildred Hill and Patty Hill]

Wow, lady! You look good for 83! Better than ever, I’d say. But I guess I’m kind of biased. See, I have the distinct honor to work within your walls each day, and have I ever mentioned to you how grateful I am for that?

As a fellow March baby, there are several things I think we have in common. Pisces is a mutable sign, which indicates that you’re a restless soul, always longing for movement. Boy, is that an understatement! You’re not one to settle for a night off, Ohio Theatre. I believe you’re at your best when your marquee is lit, your stage is full, and your audiences are cheering.

When your doors first opened on March 17, 1928, you were christened the Loew’s and United Artist’s Ohio Theatre (although now you go only by your surname – how very Cher of you!). Your first love was movies, and you premiered new ones every Thursday. In the 1930s-50s, that meant two films, cartoons, newsreels, and organ interludes. Eventually though, as folks flocked to the suburbs and their shiny new televisions, attendance dropped and your hallowed halls were in jeopardy of being demolished. Luckily, at the tender age of 41, a newly organized group called CAPA (or the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts) raised the money to purchase you and dutifully restore every possible authentic detail. It must have felt so wonderful to once more get the attention you deserve.

For many years prior to your renovation, you were referred to as “the shabby old dowager of State Street.” Now you are the “Official Theatre for the State of Ohio” and a vital part of downtown Columbus. Nothing pleases me more than to see your marquee lit up on a beautiful Ohio evening. As you continue to grow and shift with the times, one thing will certainly never change – we are so very fortunate to have you!

And now, Ohio Theatre, this is your life! (Or at least some very entertaining anecdotes from it…)

  • Your original construction cost was $865,000. Your purchase price in 1969 was $2.5 million. Current value: priceless.
  • Regular organ use ended in 1942 when Roger Garrett, the resident organist from 1933-42, enlisted in World War II. The “Mighty Morton” theatre organ currently used during the CAPA Summer Movie Series and other special events is the very same organ that Roger Garrett used to play.
  • Your lower level used to house what was referred to as the “Africa Corner.” Anne Dornan, one of the first women to graduate from the Columbia School for Architecture, went on an African safari to procure just the right accoutrement for the corner which was decorated with, among other things, zebra hides and elk heads.
  • I alluded earlier to the fact that we’re birthday buddies, our special days falling just 4 days apart. You turn 83 this year, and I was born in the great year of 1983. I did some research and was able to find the number of patrons that have entered your doors since that great year. It’s a big number. Are you ready for it? 8,528,985 people! That’s more than 10 times the current population of Columbus! Your attendees over the past 28 years could fill Ohio Stadium more than 80 times.

Thank you, Ohio Theatre, from just one of many people that have been lucky enough to work for you over the years. We appreciate you more than you know.

Happy Birthday!

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