Capitol centennial celebration, take two: Capitol Theatre will celebrate 101 years this weekend

Although its official centennial birthday was last year, the Capitol Theatre, the last remaining movie theatre on the city’s west side, will commemorate 101 years, and look ahead to the next 100 years, by hosting the party of a lifetime this Saturday, Oct. 22.

The theater officially turned 100 years old in April 2021, but due to the pandemic organizers had to limit the fanfare last year, says Josh Jones Forbes, marketing director for Northwest Neighborhoods CDC.

<span class="content-image-text">Capitol Theater interior</span>Capitol Theater interior“The Capitol turned 100 last year, but the theater was shuttered because of COVID,” he recalls. “We had planned to have a celebration at the time, but we had to postpone it. Instead, we had an outdoor photo opp—we said, ‘come get a slice of cake and take a picture outside the theater.’ But it wasn’t the same.”

So, this weekend, Jones Forbes says they are pulling out all the stops for a true centennial celebration.

The evening kicks off at 6 p.m. with a VIP reception, recognizing the honorary chairs—the three original champions of the Gordon Square Arts District campaign— Dick Pogue, Albert Ratner, and the late Tom Sullivan’s son, Frank Sullivan—with live music by OPUS 216.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb is scheduled to say a few words, says Jones Forbes, as well. At 7 p.m., the program will begin in the Capitol’s historic auditorium, with recognition of honoree Matt Zone for work in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. “We’re honoring Matt Zone as a visionary for completing the Detroit Shoreway as a whole,” says Jones Forbes. “So, we want to recognize him for his service.”

Then Jones Forbes says the event with “kick it into party mode” from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. with indoor and outdoor celebrations with dance music, libations, and locally made appetizers from Spice Catering, Astoria Cafe & Market, Landmark Smokehouse, Rincon Criollo, and Gypsy Beans.

<span class="content-image-text">Upper theater wall detail</span>Upper theater wall detailAt 9:30 p.m., desserts will be served along with a late-night screening of “Back to the Future.” The party goes on until 11 p.m.

The Capitol Theatre has weathered several ups and downs in its 101 years. The Capitol Theatre first opened its doors on April 8, 1921 as a vaudeville and silent film house in the Gordon Square Arcade and Community Building.

The theater has gone through periods of disrepair, extensive renovations, and modern upgrades in its history—even closing from 1985 to 2009—but it has always survived, even during a 17-month shutdown during the peak of COVID-19.

Even though it survived the latest shutdown, the Capitol Theatre, operated by Cleveland Cinemas,earned no revenue and depleted its reserve fund in 2020 and 2021. But the community came to the theater’s aid—voluntarily raising nearly $20,000 to help Northwest Neighborhoods reopen the Capitol in August 2021.

“They were all small donations,” says Jones Forbes. “People became really concerned, and they bought T-shirts, take home concessions. A lot of people have bought [$250] VIP tickets. The support has been strong.

That jumpstarted Northwest Neighborhoods’ $150,000 campaign to restore the Capitol’s reserve fund, which is crucial for technology infrastructure upgrades, building repairs, and emergency preparedness.

A dedicated Host Committee of volunteers — co-chaired by Spencer and Carpenter — has solicited more than 100 additional sponsorships and donations to support the Capitol’s campaign. The total amount raised will be announced at the Centennial Celebration following the live auction.

Valet parking for the Capitol Centennial Celebration begins at 5:30 p.m. at 1390 West 65th Street, and the event runs through 11 p.m. Tickets are $25 for a late night movie ticket; $150 for general admission ticket; and $250 for a VIP ticket. Sponsorships start at $500.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.