October 26, 2014

Medina
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50°F

Historic movie theater in downtown Medina reopens

A little bit of yesteryear has come alive downtown. The historic movie theater at 139 W. Liberty St., formerly the Rock Theater and before that the Rose, is back in business with a new name and movies on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.

“We wanted to restore and do something for the community,” said Dan Andrews, executive director of the nonprofit Medina Community Theater.

Dan Andrews is executive director of the Medina Community Theater, which is open Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE GRAZIER)

Andrews, along with his wife, Katharine, have been organizing the remodeling of the 196-seat theater, with the aim of “making this a venue for performing arts and movies.”

Andrews said he and a few volunteers decided to test community support for the theater, starting last June with free “faith-based” films on Sundays for area church members.

The idea blossomed, and short movies and five-minute cartoons started playing on weekends in the fall.

Then, the theater started featuring a few holiday-themed, full-length films. During Halloween week, that meant “Night of the Living Dead.” At Christmastime, holiday favorite “A Christmas Story” was up on the big screen.

Andrews is serious about making the theater affordable: Tickets are $3.

“It’s $5 here for a soda, popcorn and movie,” Andrews said. “Not many places can do that.”

The Sunday “faith-based” films — typically with a G or PG rating — remain free of charge. This Sunday’s show is “Seven Days in Utopia,” starting at 5 p.m.

While the prices are old-fashioned, the theater’s equipment isn’t. Upgrades include a digital projector, sound system and improved plumbing.

A new marquee for the building and fabric for the walls are coming soon, Andrews said.

The renovation, which has cost about $60,000 so far, have been paid for by donations, a loan through the nonprofit and proceeds from ticket sales and concessions, he said.

“What we make is what we spend,” Andrews said. “We’re doing a little bit at a time.”

He said the theater keeps overhead low. The ushers and concessionaires are volunteers. All proceeds from movies and refreshments go back into the theater’s restoration.

Plans for 2014 call for a dinner theater inside the complex for plays and fashion shows.

Andrews’ nonprofit group is negotiating to purchase the 23,200-square-foot building that houses the theater.

The building was constructed in 1924 for Medina Masonic Lodge No. 58, said Andrews, a lodge member. The 8,200-square-foot portion that is the movie theater, with a seating capacity of 870, was added in 1937.

“Our intent is to keep the 1930s theme going, as far as looks go,” he said.

In 1972, the theater was divided into the Medina Twin Theater, which closed in April 2000.

In 2003, the building was renovated for the Rose Theater, hosting live concerts and movies for several years, Andrews said. About 2007, it was reincarnated as the Rock Theater but closed the following year.

Susie Paffumi, the theater’s public relations director, said the movie house has special meaning to her. She remembered watching films there in the mid-1990s.

“My husband Mike and I had our first date here in 1995 when in high school,” Paffumi said. She remembers the film: “Outbreak,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo.

Paffumi also recalled coming to the theater as a child with her parents and making her way up a 60-foot walkway to purchase a movie ticket.

“I remember running up that ramp as a kid. It was so exciting going to the movies,” she added. “I’m just as excited to have a place to bring my kids.”

Other members of the nonprofit include Dan Moffitt, director of maintenance; Matt Strehle, vice president of operations; Steve Traina, vice president of public performances; Katharine Andrews, treasurer; and Bob Sulia, secretary.

Contact reporter Steve Grazier at (330) 721-4012 or sgrazier@medina-gazette.com.

History of the Medina downtown theater

1924: The original Masonic Temple contains a basement and four floors in the western portion of the building and a basement and two floors in the eastern part for a total of about 15,000 square feet.
1937: An 8,200-square-foot, single-floor movie theater, lobby and corridor were added to connect Liberty Street to the lobby.
1966: In addition, an elevator was installed in the southwest corner of the building in and stops at the basement, first, second and third floors.
2002: The Medina Masonic Temple and theater annex were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Notable architectural features include ionic columns, pilasters and facade symmetry; stone entry stair off Elmwood Avenue; arched ballroom windows, which no longer exist; Masonic Temple lodge and balcony.