Playhouse Square, Cleveland’s broadway with theaters

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North of Euclid Avenue, in the downtown area is Playhouse Square.

Playhouse Square is the largest performing arts center in the United States outside of NY (only Lincoln Center is bigger) for its Broadway shows, concerts, comedies, opera …

Built in 19 months in the early 1920s, the theatres were later closed, but were revived thanks to a popular effort. Their renovation and reopening helped usher in a new era of downtown Cleveland development and were called “one of the top ten successes in Cleveland’s history.”

Between February 1921 and November 1922, five theatres opened along Euclid Avenue between E. 14th and E. 17th streets. Four of the new theatres – Allen, Ohio (renamed Mimi Ohio Theatre in 2019), State (renamed KeyBank State Theatre in 2017) and Palace (renamed Connor Palace in 2014) – were built north of Euclid; across the street, the Hanna was located in the Hanna office building.

An attempt to rename the district “Euclid Square” failed because the media did not follow the movement.

After the Second World War, the rise of television in households led to the fall and closure of Playhouse Square theatres. In 14 months (May 68 to July 69) the four theatres of the time were closed and abandoned and vendalism. No one was about to reopen this place. However, a bold plan to save the 4 theatres by creating a centre of fine arts and entertainment was born in 1970 by the playhouse square association.

The musical revue Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris opened its doors in the lobby of the KeyBank State Theatre in 1973 with a three-week wait. He played for two years setting a record performance in Ohio! This has also helped to restore the image and development of the neighbourhood.

Building on these artistic successes, the curators continued to: prevent demolition, build a professional management team and raise $40 million through public/private partnerships to save theatres.

Restoration began in good fashion and culminated with the reopening in July 1982 of the Mimi Ohio Theatre. By the late 1980s, the curtain had once again risen in both KeyBank State and Connor Palace. Allen remained on the endangered theater list until 1993, when the Playhouse Square Foundation, the non-profit organization that operated the center, leased the theater with an agreement to buy it. The purchase was completed in 1997 and the restored Allen reopened in October 1998.

In 1999, an investment group led by Playhouse Square agreed to acquire the historic Hanna Building, a decision that brought control of the Hanna Theatre as well as significant retail opportunities at street level.

In a newspaper poll, executives hailed “the rescue of Playhouse Square” as the main triumph on a list of the top 10 hits in Cleveland’s history.

Playhouse Square attracts more than one million people a year to its 11 theatres while generating more than $43 million in sales each year.

To conclude:

Playhouse Square is a tourist destination, an engine of economic development, an entertainment player, a neighborhood real estate developer and a national leader in arts education.

Playhouse can count on the generosity of donors and business partners to exist because it is now a non-profit organization.

List of theatres:

  • Allen theatre
  • Connor Palace
  • Hanna theatre
  • Helen rosenfeld lewis bialosky lab theatre
  • Kennedy’s cabaret
  • Keybank state theatre
  • Mimi ohio theattre
  • Outcalt theatre
  • Upper allen
  • S bank plaza
  • Westfield insurance studio theatre

Key dates:

1921-22 – Inauguration of the five historic theatres in Playhouse Square

1973 – The non-profit Playhouse Square that exists today is created

1998 – Creation of the Department of Community Engagement and Education

1999 – Creation of the real estate services division

2012 – Celebrating the 90th anniversary of the place

2014 – Dazzle the transformation of the neighborhood

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