Ohio Theatre History
Palace for the Average Man
When Scottish-born architect, Thomas W. Lamb, designed the Ohio Theatre, he envisioned “a palace for the average man.” The Ohio Theatre opened in 1928—a Loew's movie house that was a 2,779-seat Spanish-Baroque masterpiece—complete with its own orchestra and theatre organ. In addition to the movies, live stage shows touring on the Loews circuit found a home on the Ohio stage. During the heyday of vaudeville, many top performers crossed the Ohio's stage, including Milton Berle, Ray Bolger, Cab Calloway, Buddy Ebsen, Martha Raye, Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, Kate Smith, and a young emcee with a violin named Jack Benny.
A Woman’s Touch
To decorate and furnish the Ohio, Loew's chose Anne Dornan, one of the first women to graduate from the Columbia School of Architecture. Dornan traveled around the world to select art and furnishings, even going on a safari to find appropriate decorations for the "Africa Corner" in the lower lounge of the Ohio. Approximately $1,000,000 was spent on art and furnishings -- more than the cost of the building itself!
Save the Ohio!
The Ohio Theatre thrived as a movie house until the suburban sprawl of the 1960s drew traffic out of downtown. Like many other grand theatres of the past, the Ohio was headed for demolition. In 1969, the citizens of central Ohio mounted a “Save the Ohio” campaign, raising over 2 million dollars in less than a year in an unprecedented effort. The newly formed Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA) subsequently purchased and renovated the Ohio Theatre, creating a home for Columbus' performing arts institutions that is the busiest performing arts facility in Ohio.
Today, the Ohio Theatre is home to The Columbus Symphony Orchestra, BalletMet, and The Broadway Series, as well as more than 100 CAPA events each year, including music from all genres and corners of the world, dance, theater, comedy, children's entertainment, and the time-honored Summer Movie Series. The Ohio Theatre's lush interior, excellent acoustics, and state-of-the-art stage facilities have made it a favorite of performers and patrons alike, and recent renovations to the backstage and dressing rooms guarantee that the Ohio Theatre will continue its grand tradition as the “Official Theatre for the State of Ohio.”