Showcase Cinemas on Secor Road

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Always the Great White Whale of buildings in the stretch of Secor Road between Central and Monroe, and with a parking lot large enough for a battleship, anyone who went to a movie there can’t forget the Showcase Cinemas, which closed in 2005 and torn down in December, 2010.

A view of Showcase Cinemas before it was torn down in 2010, thanks to Google Maps.

Never split up into sixteen-plus theaters, Cinema I and II, as it was known when it opened December 17, 1964, was billed as “an entirely new concept in luxury entertainment”: stereo sound, sight-line picture viewing, reclining lounge rocking chairs, and if my memory serves me correctly, a curtain. And what did they get? A William Shatner movie.

The story about the gala preview the evening before noted that the Redstone brothers, Sumner and Edward, made no financial study of Toledo before deciding to build. “One of the brothers said they just looked at the size and nature of the city and decided it to give it a try,” which in this day and age sounds incredible.

Dec. 17 1964
Cinema I and II opens

Prior to Cinema I and II’s opening, a look at the Peach Section showed the area dominated by the downtown theaters – The Esquire, the Pantheon, the Valentine – a few away from downtown, like the Colony (and the Westwood!) and the drive-ins, which apparently stayed open year-round (since the above ad was competing with ads from the Franklin Park and Miracle Mile drive-ins on the same page, in December).

The review of the building itself was by The Blade’s Joan Anderson:

Champagne and hors d’oeuvres were served at the preview opening of Cinema I and II last night and seemed quite appropriate.

The vastness and luxury of the surroundings can make a person feel that going to a motion picture is actually a social event. Last night was social for the nearly 1,000 who attended but future audiences will find that the atmosphere of the theaters will make them feel a little special.

The St. Francis de Sales High School band greeted guests as they entered the great, white structure, and the school’s chorus sang Christmas carols from up on the mezzanine. People roamed this mezzanine, which skirts the lobby on all four sides,  studying the works of local artists on display.

Edward and Sumner Redstone, theater representatives from Boston, watched as Vice Mayor Walinski cut the ribbons opening the two theaters. And then the guests were given the choice of seeing “The Outrage” or “Send Me No Flowers.” …

The theater seats, designed specifically by the Redstone chain, have high rocker backs and are quite comfortable. A most pleasant discovery of the movie-goers last night was that when the theater advertised sight-line viewing, it meant just that. Each seat has an unobstructed view of the large wrap-around screens.

Cinema I seated 705, Cinema II seated 1,100.

Sumner Redstone, of course, went on to not just bigger and better things but gigantic things through his company National Amusements, like Viacom, CBS Corporation, MTV Networks, BET, and Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks movie studios.

This is what was left of Showcase Cinemas in 2012 - the sign. Photo by the author.
This is what was left of Showcase Cinemas in 2012 – the sign. Photo by the author.

Since I am in my fifties, my memories of the downtown theaters are dim, if not gone. The Colony Theater was a nice place though, and showed a lot of kid movies. But Cinema I and II was the place to go. Kind of a refined atmosphere if you were a little kid, and I remember seeing a lot of movies there: My Fair Lady is probably the earliest one I can remember there, because I can remember how big the auditorium seemed. And the chairs were as advertised: really, really nice.

At some point, at least by 1971, the big theater was divided into two theaters, making it Cinema I, II and III, while Cinema IV and V (also known as the Franklin Park Cinemas) were built on Monroe St. They opened in the fall of 1971. I cannot determine when exactly, but shortly after the Franklin Park Mall opened.

5 Comments

  1. Google Maps has an update picture now from 2013.

    I was born in ’78, spent my first 8 years in Toledo (Upton/Sylvania Ave) and then moved out to Sylvania. I can remember going to this theater a few times…. most memorable would be seeing Jurassic Park when it first came out. You are spot on about the parking lot in back. At a time when the downtown theaters were still rockin’ with their limited parking space to this theater, it was a HUGE difference.

    Great website.

  2. “Never split up into sixteen-plus theaters, Cinema I and II, as it was known when it opened December 17, 1964, was billed as “an entirely new concept in luxury entertainment”: stereo sound, sight-line picture viewing, reclining lounge rocking chairs, and if my memory serves me correctly, a curtain. And what did they get? A William Shatner movie.”

    A theater like this was worthy of “Roadshow” attractions but I guess nothing was around in ’64 to take advantage of it’s first day.

    At present, the property is being redeveloped as a combination of two hotels with some strip plaza on the side. Why the area needs two more inns to accommodate the other three, I don’t know? Just seems like a waste of resources to me, though I wish the theater was still there (and the old Westgate, such a mess they did to that).

  3. I

    I remember” The Roadshow Entertainers” opened the theatres in a grand way. The Roadshow was the best entertainment that N.W. Ohio had ever seen, they could be seen every Fri.&Sat. at Niko’s Speakeasy at 5365 Monroe St. Sylvania, Ohio.

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