NORWOOD HISTORICAL SOCIETY
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Norwood's Theaters

EARLY STAGES

An early venue used for live plays and entertainments was the Norwood Town Hall. By one account, the second floor of the adjacent Fire House was also used for entertainment, but this may be erroneous—the Town Hall may have been the venue. Later, the Municipal Building, more commonly known as City Hall had an auditorium on the second floor, too. The stage and the balcony seats still remain today.

Norwood's first high school at Allison Street had an auditorium on the third floor. It was replaced with laboratories, but was returned to an auditorium when the building was converted to a grade school. The Norwood Middle (Junior High) School, which was formerly the second high school, and the third and current Norwood High School have auditoriums, also.

With the opening of the Norwood Public Library in 1907, an auditorium was available on the second floor of that building. In 1966, the extensive remodeling of the library, which involved the reduction of structural support of the second floor and the removal of one of the two stairways, stopped the use of this auditorium.

Norwood Library's 2nd floor auditorium in 2010


COMMERCIAL THEATERS

The commercial theaters, although mainly used to show movies (first silent and then "talkies"), were sometimes used for live entertainment, also. The first two movie theaters may have been the Minnette and the Pike, in 1909— over 100 years ago! The Plaza appeared to have opened the next year. To give a historical perspective to that time, consider that the first "moving picture" shown in Cincinnati was in 1905, only four years before Norwood's first movie theaters opened. That silent film was the 10-minute "Great Train Robbery," shown at the Scenic Theater,143 West Fifth Street, Cincinnati, for which customers were charged 5¢.

MOVIE THEATERINDOOROUTDOORLOCATIONYEARS
The NorwoodX 4720 Montgomery Road1913-59
Sanker Airdome XMontgomery Road
south of The Norwood
ca.1917
Norwood Ball Park Hippodrome Xeast side of Smith Road
just south of Montgomery Road intersection
1918-?
The OhioX 4646 (4644?) Montgomery Road ?-1950
PikeX 4643? Montgomery Road1909-10?
PlazaX 4630 Montgomery Road1910-66 (1970?)
MinnetteX 4608 Montgomery Road1909-10?
Norwood Central Parke II CinemasX 4600 Smith Road1980s?
Plaza Airdome X4431 Montgomery Road1912?-1920?
Little NemoX 3751? Montgomery Road1912-16?

OUTDOOR THEATERS

Movies were shown at outdoor venues, also. There were at least three outdoor theaters. Two were called Air Dome—one, adjacent to, and just south of, The Norwood and the other at the southwest corner of Montgomery and Mills. At the old ballpark/circus grounds, before General Motors built their plant there, east of Smith Road, movies were shown on summer evenings by Ed Rohrer for 5¢ and 10¢. This outdoor theater, the Norwood Hippodrome, was used from 1918 to at least 1923. Directories from that time recorded it as being located on Smith Road, south of Montgomery Pike. Finally, the Twin Drive-In and the Showcase Cinemas, which replaced the outdoor double screens, are often erroneously said to be in Norwood. (The extreme eastern part of the drive-in may have been in Norwood. It was the section that was not developed into a asphalt parking lot when the cinemas were opened. Now, even those cinemas are closed and demolished. An announcement in November, 2010, was made that a church was to be built on the site. Tentative plans by the church also included a grocery store and other facilities.)


DESCRIPTIONS OF NORWOOD THEATERS

(from north to south)
  • The Norwood Theater - 4720 (4722 on one map) Montgomery Road at Maple. It was the furthest north of the theaters on Montgomery Road. The Norwood, opened around 1913. It may have "replaced" Sanker's Garden, according to a 1913 article in the Commercial Tribune. A 1917 Sanborn map shows a "beer garden" to the south of the Sanker buildings, but the original area of the beer garden is taken by a theater. The marquee was changed over the years, as can be seen in these images.


    In the March 25, 1948, edition of The Enterprise it was announced that Maurice Chase and Herman H. Hunt signed a lease of the Norwood Theater for 20 years from Dr. George C. Kolb, Jr., president and treasurer of the Norwood Theater Company. It was also mentioned that Dr. Kolb lived in Mt. Healthy and that Chase and Hunt owned or controlled theaters in Avondale, Walnut Hills and Winton Place.


    The 900-seat Norwood permanently closed Saturday, January 31, 1959. In February, 1959, the Norwood Theater building was sold by Dr. and Mrs. George C. Kolb, Jr. to The First National Bank of Cincinnati for $100,000. The 75 feet by 180 feet property was to be used for parking and drive-in banking services.
  • The (Sanker) Airdome - On the same 1917 Sanborn map, just south of the Norwood, was an outdoor theater, The Airdome. Unless this was a common name for outdoor theaters at the time, there were two theaters with that name in Norwood around that time (see the Plaza Airdome article below).
  • The Norwood Hippodrome (a.k.a. the Norwood Ball Park Hippodrome) was located on Smith Road, south of Montgomery Pike, according to the 1917-18, 1919-20 and 1922-23 Norwood Directories. According to the following advertisement Ed Rohrer's outdoor theater opened June 15, 1918, (that may have been the first opening of the 1918 season— it may have been open the previous year, also) at the site of the then Norwood Base Ball Park, the future General Motors plant and today's Central Parke.

    HIPPODROME OPENING


       In the same June 1918 newspaper containing this ad, Manager Rohrer announced the opening of the Ball Park Hippodrome on Saturday and Sunday.
    —Thursday, June 13, 1918 The Norwood Enterprise
  • The Ohio Theater - 4646 (4644?) Montgomery Road, south of the Norwood Theater, north of the Plaza Theater and opposite Norwood City Hall. An August, 1950, newspaper article noted that Mrs. Winona Huff was hired as the new manager by owner Willis H. Vance. They still may have been the operators when the theater closed on October 9, 1950. In August, 1951, the Standard Rug and Lineoleum Company moved into the former theater after spending $26,000 to convert it into a modern showroom. There was a theater in Cincinnati, at the northeast corner of 15th and Central Avenue, with a similiar name — Ohio Theatre.
  • Pike Theater - 4643? Montgomery Pike. This early "moving picture" theater appears to have been short-lived. It was listed in the 1909-10 Williams Norwood Directory only.
  • The Plaza Theater - 4630 Montgomery Road. Although this has been assumed to be the first movie house to open in Norwood—in 1910, the Minnette and Pike Theaters appeared to have beat it to that claim by at least a year. The Plaza closed in 1965, but reopened in 1966; it closed again, perhaps that same year. However, advertisements in The Enterprise indicate it was still operational in late 1969 and early 1970, perhaps for weekends, only.




    The December 11, 1969, issue of the newspaper stated that "a special series of Saturday matinee programs for children of all ages will begin at the Plaza Theatre, 4630 Montgomery Rd., Saturday afternoon, Dec. 20th." The first program would include "The Further Perils of Laurel and Hardy" and a Tom and Jerry cartoon carnival of five color cartons.


    By late 1971 or early 1972, the Plaza Building, which housed the theater and a few other businesses, was demolished as part of the Urban Renewal project for "downtown" Norwood. The Plaza was the last movie theater in Norwood until the 1980's, when a now defunct multi-screen theater (see the Norwood Parke II Cinemas listing below) opened in Central Parke.


    Norwood resident Bush Parker was Secretary of the early theater and may have been one of its founders.


    Trivia question: Who was the doorman of the Plaza Theater in 1913?
    Move pointer over the question to see the answer. The answer will pop up in a box and in the status bar of your browser (depending on its settings).
  • Minnette Theater - 4608 Montgomery Pike. This early "moving picture" theater may have been short lived. It was listed in the 1909-10 Williams Norwood Directory. Also, listed in that book and the 1911-12 Williams Norwood Directory was William Bakrow, as the proprietor of the theater. He lived at the n.w.c. of Elm Avenue and Montgomery Pike in flat (apartment) 4. Also, living here was Ray Bakrow.
  • Norwood Central Parke II Cinemas - 4600 Smith Road. This modern discount multiplex theater was built at Central Parke, on the site of the old General Motors assembly facility. It was in the center part of a strip mall at the corner of Smith Road and Park Avenue. Today, the location within the building is occupied by a health club. The theater complex was in operation for about 15 years, starting around the mid-1980's.
  • Airdome (a.k.a. the Plaza Airdome) - 4431 Montgomery Pike (southwest corner Montgomery Pike and Mills Avenue — at today's Speedway store, across from Surrey Square and Victory Park) — at least as early as 1913 or 1912 and until around 1920. The interesting thing about this theater was that it was outdoor. Although a 1953 newspaper article said it was called the "Bon Ton," this was probably not correct. In the early 1900s, there was a theater at Gilbert and Hewitt Avenues in Walnut Hills of that name, however.


    In the 1976 book Norwood, Ohio — Bicentennial Remembrance, edited by Margaret Guentert, the "ANECDOTES" section contained a couple of references to the Air Dome. A Mr. Behrman recalled that when he was a boy, he would go to outdoor silent movies at the Air Dome for 15. Else Schulze said it was an open air theater with cedar chips on the ground and music provided by a piano.


    Interestingly, a 1917 Sanborn map shows another outdoor theater called the "Air Dome" (a.k.a. the Sanker Airdome) in Norwood. It was adjacent to, and south of, The Norwood Theater, and just north of the old and vacant Central School. Its stage was on the Montgomery Road side, and the seating area extended almost to Smith Road.
  • Little Nemo Theater - 3751 (3575?) Montgomery Pike (west side, approximately halfway between Lexington & Cleneay Avenues at the current Xavier development). This would have been the most southern Montgomery Road theater in Norwood. The proprietor, ca. 1912-16, was Nemo Amusement Company. Information about this theater is scarce, but it appears to have been a children's theater of some sort. It is possible that movies were not shown here.

  • Rookwood Cinemas - actually, the name of this 16-theater complex has not been announced. It is planned to open before the 2012 holiday season at the to-be-built Rookwood Exchange development at Edmondson/Edward Roads.
For a sample listing of movies shown at some of the Norwood theaters, click here.


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