Footprints disappear quickly in the desert. So too did thousands of theatres that once thrived in communities large and small. In many cases, audiences for them have passed on as well. In the end, it's as though they never existed. One such was
A watchword then was palatial, at least among urban-rising theatres built like temples to the moving shadow. It was more about the experience of going than what you saw on screens. Common folk could enter for a quarter and be treated like landed gentry. That meant lots after a workday buffeted by management and streetcars. What sounds hoity-toity to us was music to them: There are excellently constructed and furnished retiring rooms for ladies, and maids will be in attendance. Who among moderns could define a "retiring room"? Is it the same as a "Ladies Boudoir Retreat," as cited in an ad for the Lyceum's Opening Day? And what of the Peacock Walk and Promenades? These, I'm informed, were opportunities to show (or show off) how well you've dressed to attend. I guess the only Peacock Walks left today are fashion runways, where the idea is to sell clothes on display. Are moviegoers even conscious of their appearance in theatres any more?
The Largest, Most Artistic, and Distinctive Playhouse Devoted to The Showing of Photoplays in Ohio was bold promise to Clevelanders who'd known luxury with movies, but not 2000 seat's worth, nor with running fountains or a $20,000 pipe organ (do you suppose that organ still exists?). Opera singers were promised. Imagine that in a movie house today. Yes, life was different then. Folks seemed to aspire to finer things, or at least give an appearance of doing so. A New Lyceum was close as many got to high culture, and it fed pretension of those who sought to rise above the riff-raff. It was easier justifying a trip to what was still considered a lowly pastime if you could come back edified, if not by the movie, then at least for having heard classics rendered on the Wurlitzer or a snatch of aria performed onstage.
Onscreen was The Forbidden Woman with Clara Kimball Young, she the "Empress Of Emotion," along with Conway Tearle, "The Perfect Lover." I'd like seeing this, but I'll bet it's lost. 2000 Lyceum opening nighters got the pleasure, and to accompaniment of a symphony orchestra. They must have come away thinking Heaven had spread gates as of 5/25/20. I like how suppliers put messages in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer to wish the New Lyceum luck. Argus Enterprises was a nationwide vendor of screen/stage equipment, kept busy by contracts from theatre builders at a peak now that feature pictures and palace accommodation to show them took hold. The Standard Film Service Co. was a local exchange, eager to ID forthcoming The Lost City as a serial they distributed, ad placement hopeful that other
Here's an excerpt from then-coverage that intrigued me: The ventilating system is scientifically constructed and is of the latest type. Each morning the entire theatre will be flooded with hot water and dried with huge suction fans. To that I can but say ... wow. Sobering reminder if nothing else of how we take for granted our central air. I have no recollection of being over-heated in a theatre, let alone chased out by fetid air. The
So what became of the Lyceum? I consulted Cinema Treasures, always a first stop for such inquiry, but found little. A few blogs and historical sites mention it. Once a venue known for "family friendly entertainment," the Lyceum fell before the wrecking ball of a changed culture and became a porn house in the 70's, the neighborhood itself having yielded to a criminal element. That seems to have been the finish for most downtown theatres. From best I could determine, the Lyceum was torn down and a public library replaced it, so maybe rough edges are smoothed off the vicinity by now. More people have made serious study of defunct theatres in recent years, so chances are data is out there about the Lyceum and its history back to the 1800's and legit usage. I'd welcome further info from anyone who's dug deeper here.