An early venue used for live plays and entertainments was the Norwood
. 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
an auditorium on the second floor, too. The stage and the balcony seats
still remain today.
'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
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
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!
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¢.
Movies were shown at outdoor venues, also. There were at least three
outdoor theaters. Two were called Air Dome
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
, 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.
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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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, a name was never given to this planned 16-theater
complex. It was planned to open before the 2012 holiday season at
the then to-be-built Rookwood Exchange development at
Edmondson/Edward Roads. A business decision was made by the developer
to not built the Rookwood complex after it was announced that a
multiplex was to be built at the old Cincinnati Milling Machine
property in Oakley.
For a sample listing of movies shown at some of the Norwood
theaters, click here