Web Content Viewer
looking up at interior ceiling of The Ohio Theatre in Columbus

Historic Theatres in Ohio

Draw back the curtain to learn more about these historic spots.

The Ohio Theatre in Columbus

Historic Theatres in Ohio

By Anietra Hamper

Posted On: Mar 8, 2023

As I walk into the historic Ohio Theatre in Columbus, the patrons are dressed in their finest clothes and the quiet elegance of gilded details on the painted ceilings, red velvet auditorium seats and live orchestra pits transport us all into another era.

The ambiance gives me a glimpse into what the theater experience might have been like in 1928 when it was the Loew's movie house. 

interior view looking out from stage at ohio theatre in columbus
Ohio Theatre in Columbus

The majestic Ohio Theatre, like many old theatres in the state, was saved from demolition by passionate donors who wanted to preserve this remarkable piece of history.

Catching a performance at one of these historic movie houses or vaudeville theatres not only adds a special memory the the experience, but supports the ongoing efforts required to maintain these elegant structures. There are dozens of them throughout Ohio. Check out the list below that highlights some historic theatres.

looking down inside Marion Palace Theatre in central Ohio
Marion Palace Theatre 

Central Ohio

There are several historic theaters throughout Columbus. The Palace Theatre, an old vaudeville venue in the 1930-1950s, is popular for theater and musical performances. And the Southern Theatre, which opened in 1896 as an opera house, is one of the oldest in the state providing an intimate performance venue especially for acoustic musical acts.

The Lincoln Theatre underwent renovations a several years ago, and helped to revitalize the King-Lincoln district of Columbus. In the past, it was a popular venue for jazz performances. It now attracts top performance artists and its Egyptian Revival-style décor makes it a stand-out attraction for any performing arts lover. 

Newark's Midland Theatre is a crown jewel in the state. Originally a silent film venue in the 1920s, it sat abandoned for 14 years after significant damage caused by the Blizzard of '78. It was eventually salvaged and impeccably restored to near original condition attracting well-known artists and musicians.

The Marion Palace Theatre has remained a centerpiece of the community since it opened as a vaudeville theatre in 1928. In its heyday, the theatre attracted acts like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Like the historic timelines of so many other theatres, it lost its allure over the years and fell into disrepair until it was resorted with most of its original charm in the 1970s. Today, the grand theatre attracts national acts and features regional performers.

Trivia: The Marion Palace Theatre is one of only 16 atmospheric theaters remaining in the United States (out of more than 100 built around the world by movie palace architect John Eberson). 

looking down towards stage inside Akron Civic Theatre in Ohio
Akron Civic Theatre

Northeast Ohio

The Akron Civic Theatre is also a John Eberson creation that started out in 1919 as a venue called the Hippodrome. The original project was supposed to be a grand entertainment and shopping venue, but it went belly up before completion. It became the Loew's Theatre in 1929 -- fantastically designed with a Mediterranean and medieval flare.

A recurring story, the Akron Civic Theatre was nearly destroyed until a 2001 renovation effort gave the mystical looking theater new life. Now the theatre attracts acts like Cirque Ziva acrobatics, musical acts, theater productions, and ballet.

One of the largest historic theatre restoration projects in the country was Playhouse Square in Cleveland. The original five theatres that made up Playhouse Square were restored to a 10-theatre collection that now attracts world-class performances. It would take several days to experience the variety of performance arts available at the Playhouse Square venues, but it could make for a wonderful themed getaway! 

Located by the shores of Lake Erie, Rabbit Run Theater in Madison is one of the few barn theaters still operating in the U.S. Located in what once a working family farm, this barn was converted into a theater in 1946. Today, Rabbit Run Theater is a fully functioning 275-seat facility and hosts about 8,000 patrons over a summer season. They present four main stage productions, one youth production, and offer Summer Theater Arts Camps each season.

looking out from stage to rows of seats inside peoples bank historic theatre in marietta ohio
Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta

Southeast Ohio

The Historic Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta was previously known as the Hippodrome when it was built in 1911. Originally a vaudeville theater, it suffered a fire in 1917 but was quickly bought by a company dedicated to rebuilding and restoring the space. After a few name changes, including, the Colony Cinema, it eventually settled on its current name - the Peoples Theatre. 

Known as "America's oldest continuously operating theater," Chillicothe's Majestic Theatre has been screening into the hearts of film fans since 1853. This restored Masonic opera house offers live comedy, movie nights, and entertainment to fulfill all your Ohio entertainment fun.

The artistic core of Nelsonville in southeastern Ohio is the restored Stuart's Opera House. Resurrected from a state of disrepair in the 1920s and a devastating fire in 1980, this elegant and intimate 1879 opera house maintains its charm. New acts arrive every year, spanning genres from contemporary and folk music, theatre and dance productions, to art exhibits.

Bonus: When you visit Stuart's Opera House, be sure to book some extra time just to wander in the theatre and look at the walls covered with original hand-printed letterpress promotional posters.

looking down at stage with red curtain pulled inside the ritz theatre in tiffin ohio
The Ritz Theatre in Tiffin


When silent movies were all the rage, downtown Tiffin was ready to treat attendees to an evening of moving pictures accompanied by music. One of those silent movie theatres was the Ritz Theatre. Opening in 1928, after being built in just nine months, the Ritz welcomed hundreds of guests. In 1988, the theatre was renovated to harken back to its original glory and is now the only one of the city's four theatres from the 1920s & 1930s still around. 

Originally the Mackey's Brick Hotel, the 1882 building would soon expand and become the Huber Opera House in Hicksville. After the town's opera house burned down, hotel owner George Huber decided to transform his hotel into the area's newest theatre.

The Huber Opera House was a popular spot, but as with many historic buildings, it soon fell into disrepair. Between 1994-1999, community members worked to restore and revive the theatre. It operates today as the Huber Opera House & Civic Center, and is a venue for various performing arts shows. 

Built in 1921, the historic Ohio Theatre is Toledo's last operating neighborhood theatre. The theatre hosted a variety of shows, from vaudeville to silent film. And it still has its original Mighty 90 carbon arc 35mm movie projectors. The theatre was place on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 and now hosts several kinds of artistic performances and groups. 

side view of inside seats and stage of victoria theatre in dayton ohio
Victoria Theatre in Dayton 


Built in 1866, the Turner Opera House would eventually become Dayton's Victoria Theatre. After a fire and several name changes, the theatre finally opened as the Victoria Theatre in 1902. The building fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition. But thanks to efforts from the Victory Theatre Association, it was saved from the wrecking ball. Several decades and renovations later, the theatre was completely renovated and rechristened in 1988. 

The Murphy Theatre in Wilmington was financed by Charles Murphy, owner of the Chicago Cubs from 1906-13. The Wilmington-born Murphy returned to his hometown and worked to open the theatre in 1916. Opening two years later in 1918, the Murphy Theatre was a popular spot for many famous acts.

In 1934, the theatre reopened and screened the new movie trend: "talkies." Today, it serves as a non-profit theatre and community center that's known for its annual performance of The Murphy Christmas Show.  

group of women walking in crosswalk in front of The Canton Palace Theatre in Ohio
The Canton Palace Theatre

More historical theatres in Ohio to check out

For more arts and culture, check out #OhioFindItHere at Ohio.org

Travel Inspiration

Here are some of the latest articles from our team:

Ohio. Find It Here. Newsletter

Find travel inspiration for your next trip, get the latest Ohio news & find out about great events with our newsletter!