The ALLEN THEATRE, 1501 Euclid Ave., opened on 1 Apr. 1921. It joined the OHIO, STATE, and HANNA theaters, which had debuted only weeks before. (The PALACE THEATHER would open 19 months later - on 6 Nov. 1922). The Allen was constructed in conjunction with the Bulkley Bldg., an 8-story office building on Euclid Ave., just east of E. 14th St. Designed by architect C. Howard Crane, the $1 million showplace was developed by 2 Canadian theater impresarios, Jules and Jay Allen of Toronto. An ornate lobby led to a pillared Italian Renaissance rotunda, its dome 33' high. The balcony seating area was reached from another domed entrance hall, while a third dome graced the main arena. Altogether, the Allen could seat 3,003 movie goers in opulent surroundings. However, because the Allen brothers were not affiliated with a major motion-picture circuit, they had difficulty securing first-run features. In 1932 RKO took over. In 1949 Warner Bros. joined in the theater's management, and in 1953 Stanley-Warner Theatres assumed the lease.
Despite the expenditure of $500,000 in 1961 to renovate the Allen, diminishing audiences led to Stanley-Warner's decision to close the theater on 5 March 1968. The Allen hosted some of the earliest events during the mid/late 1970s campaign to restore Cleveland's PLAYHOUSE SQUARE. However, it was nearly lost amid the subsequent festivities surrounding the reopening of its 3 neighbors, the Ohio, State, and Palace. For several years it housed a restaurant in its lobby, but demolition had already begun in Jan. 1993, when the Playhouse Square Assn. signed a long-term lease to preserve the Allen as part of its downtown theater complex.
The theater reopened on 3 Oct. 1998, with 2,500 seats. It continued featuring concerts and musicals until bookings began to decline in the mid-2000s. Around this time, Playhouse Square Assn. joined with the CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE and CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY to reinvent the Allen Theatre space. The theater closed temporarily in 2010 and opened a year later as the Allen Theatre complex: a 500-seat main theater (the Allen), the Outcalt Theatre (seating 300), and the Helen (seating ~ 100). The complex also houses Cleveland State's Theater Department and the Helen features events staged by the CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY/Cleveland Play House MFA Acting Program.
Updated by Christopher Roy
Last updated: 8/8/2023