Classic Movies in Movie Palaces This Summer
Now Showing at: Columbus' Ohio Theatre, Daytonís Victoria Theatre and Lexingtonís Kentucky Theatre
Review by: Larry Thomas
It has always been incumbent on the citizens of Columbus, Dayton and Lexington to drive to Cincinnati in order to take in a professional, big-league sports team. Fans of the Reds and Bengals stream into Cincinnati on a regular basis to enjoy the games, and in doing so, add revenue to the restaurants, hotels, parking lots, and bars.
On the other side of the entertainment coin, Cincinnati residents have to drive to those cities if they want to see a classic movie on a really big screen in a true uniplex movie palace. During the summer months, theatres in Columbus, Dayton and Lexington each present a series of classic films—the kind you can’t see on the big screen in Cincinnati any more. A short road trip can take you back in time to experience movies like they were experienced by previous generations. And, for the most part, these are films your whole family can enjoy.
At 3,000 seats, the largest, and most ornate, of the grand dames is the Ohio Theatre in Columbus. Their series runs from mid-June through the end of August on Wednesdays through Sundays. There are lots of goodies having their first showing in the series. On June 22, Laurel and Hardy’s Way Out West, in a new restored print, is paired with International House, an all-star musical-comedy from 1933, starring W.C. Fields, Burns & Allen, Cab Calloway, Bela Lugosi, and lots more. On July 6, TV host Fritz the Night Owl, who has been a Columbus favorite for years, will introduce a double feature of Dracula's Daughter and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. On two Saturdays, June 23 and July 21, there are special 10 am cartoon shows featuring collections of classic animated short films from the Warner Brothers vault. The only “negative” in attending a film at this splendid facility is that the Ohio breaks mid-way through the film for an intermission and organ concert.
Dayton’s Victoria Theatre is a little smaller at 1,100 seats, but still very nice, and the admission price includes free popcorn and soda in the lobby, an organ concert on the NCR Mighty Wurlitzer, and a classic Warner Bros. cartoon. Showings are Friday, Saturday and Sunday from the end of June through the end of August. Some highlights for Dayton’s Victoria Theatre this summer include the rarely-seen cold war comedy The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming, with an all-star cast including Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, Eva Marie Saint, and the list goes on. It opens the series on the weekend of June 29 through July 1. Later in July, you have a chance to see Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn in The Great Escape, a thrilling World War II action drama that makes great use of CinemaScope. The season finale features Ohio favorite Doris Day teamed with Howard Keel in the musical western Calamity Jane.
Lexington’s Kentucky Theatre has 800 seats, and most of them get a good workout during their summer classics series. Every Wednesday from the end of May through the first week in September, there’s a handpicked selection of great classics from all genres and decades. And, as if those goodies weren’t enough, the concession stand offers beer and wine coolers in addition to the usual movie snacks. This Wednesday is a rare screening of the studio vault print of Nicholas Ray’s Johhny Guitar with Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, and Mercedes McCambridge. In July, don’t miss the frantic, extravagant comedy It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World with a cast bigger than most towns in Montana, including Spencer Tracy, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, and Jonathan Winters. And later that same month is a new 35mm print of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, with Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.
If you think “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” enjoying a terrific old movie in a deluxe, restored movie palace is just a short drive from home. The irony is that, in these aforementioned towns, their movie palaces are all downtown, and are a major attraction to lure people to the city center. Can you imagine what kind of “people magnet” a refurbished, multi-use theatre such as the 2500-seat Albee on Fountain Square would be for downtown Cincinnati… if it still existed.