Cleveland's Movie Theaters: A Quick, Easy Guide

click to enlarge Capitol! Capitol! - @CapitolW65th
Capitol! Capitol!
Visitors: You’ve now likely been in Cleveland for a day or two. And if you’re the swashbuckling movie-going type, odds are you’ve already scrolled through Moviefone or Fandango to apprise yourself of the Cineplex nearest your hotel or AirBnB.

Odds are you’ve also discovered that in Cleveland, literally everything is “15 or 20 minutes” away from your current location. The same GPS logic obtains on the movie theater front, so don't let us discourage you from seeing whatever you want whenever works for you, but allow us to paint the picture of the scene with a more locally-tinctured brush.

And do rest assured that, come Thursday evening, Star Trek: Beyond will be playing at roughly 5-minute intervals across the region:

If you’re downtown and in need of a two-hour-ish reprieve from the RNC madness, repair to Tower City Cinemas (230 W. Huron Rd). It’s the jewel of the locally owned and operated Cleveland Cinemas’ portfolio. Not because it’s particularly well attended — quite the opposite, in fact, which ought to enhance its sanctuarial appeal — but because it hosts the annual Cleveland International Film Festival. You can enter via Public Square (the hot, iconic new central civic space which national media has assured us repeatedly is "ready for its close-up"). Then walk past the mall’s central fountain and through what remains of the food court, a sad-sack lunchtime destination as depleted and depressing as Sarajevo c. 1995. The (potentially) heartening news on that score is that the Tower City mall has been lately purchased by Cleveland’s downtown mogul, Dan Gilbert (of Cavaliers and Quicken Loans notoriety), so the food court’s future is necessarily much brighter than its present. The movies at Tower City are your standard mainstream fare, with the occasional limited-release horror offering. Seats, screens, and refreshments are all run-of-the-mill in terms of quality, but you can’t beat the convenience.

Cleveland Cinemas also owns the best theaters on Cleveland’s east and west sides. The beloved Cedar Lee, out in Cleveland Heights (2163 Lee Road) is your destination for indie, foreign and mainstream arthouse fare. The blue hairs and the grad students merrily convene to enjoy movies like The Blackout Experience, a documentary about immersive horror obsessions (whatever that means), opening 7/22. The Cedar Lee’s something of a local institution, and the Cleveland Heights dining scene furnishes ample opportunities for dinner-and-a-movie-type outings.

On the west side, in the booming Detroit-Shoreway Neighborhood (which neighborhood’s commercial nexus is known as Gordon Square), the three-screen Capitol Theatre (1390 W. 65th St.) is locally known for its occasionally schizophrenic mix of mainstream and truly offbeat stuff. It was renovated in 2009, to due acclaim, and is, for our money, the region’s loveliest theater. Itty-bitty urinal though. This summer, the Capitol began a regular series of kooky indies and docs on a devoted screen — this week it’s the documentary Tickled, about a fetishistic tickling empire lorded over by a cyber bully. Next week it’s Lucha Mexico, a documentary about the world of Mexican wrestling.

Valley View (6001 Canal Road)
is Northeast Ohio’s biggest and glitziest Cineplex, featuring an in-house cafe and an arcade for the kiddies, among other amenities. It was recently re-carpeted in a color that looks a lot like actual bronze and has the most luxurious foyer in seven counties. If you nerd out on insanely high-def screens — XD, in fact — and D-Box motion seats and, moreover, enjoy popcorn so buttery it may as well be classified as soup, you have no choice but to answer Cinemark’s siren call. (Friday nights, it’s awash in teens — a massive brawl broke out in 2014 — and weekday summer mornings, it’s awash in families seeing Zootopia for the third or fourth time.) It’s accessible by raft or steamship down the Cuyahoga River, but I-77 South remains, let’s face it, the much more conventional route.

Hey, you’re a Republican, right? You probably incline toward the seas of white people and pre-packaged “urban living” of outdoor malls like Crocker Park, right? Wouldn’t you know it? Cleveland's fake suburban city is so complete that it’s got a movie theater, a Regal. Crocker Park Stadium 16 (30147 Detroit Rd.) does boast the area’s dopest IMAX screen, but it’s otherwise your standard suburban theater. Arrive 15-20 minutes early to withstand a poorly configured refreshment line and the battalions of high-schoolers in the throes of Snapchat. Hit up Barnes & Noble afterwards.

We must hasten to acknowledge the successful revamping of both of the area’s AMC Theaters, at Ridge Park Square (4788 Ridge Rd.) and at Westwood Town Center (21653 Center Ridge Rd.). These were bottom-feeding, non-destination venues — formerly branded as General Cinemas, which is about as descriptive as brands come; and also formerly home to $4 movies every Tuesday, which discount came with a gratis small popcorn — until last year, when enormous La-Z-Boys were installed and full-service bars, dubiously christened “MacGuffins,” were added to the refreshment offerings. You’ll still get your rambunctious high school crews here, but there's no better place around for a sanctioned public snooze.  

Last but not least: The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque (11610 Euclid Ave.), Cleveland’s only legitimate repertory theater, executively directed by Cleveland film legend John Ewing, who moonlights as a knight of the French realm. In a magnificent new home in Cleveland’s Uptown neighborhood, the Cinematheque — RNC guests will be pleased to know — has been screening films directed by or starring prominent Hollywood Republicans. This week: A Wes Anderson series, presented in conjunction with the Mark Mothersbaugh exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art down the street.  

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
Scroll to read more Movie Reviews & Stories articles


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.