History of the Parma Theater
As many already know, the Parma Theater was opened in 1936 in Parma’s historic downtown shopping district as a large single screen movie house featuring the latest popular films and offering a 1,500 person seating capacity. It remained this way for nearly half a century until it was converted into three smaller theaters featuring second run films.
Since it first opened in 1936, the Parma Theater played a special role in the lives of the Parma area’s residents throughout the years. For instance, as discovered by Patricia Haller, a dedicated member of the Friends of Parma Theater committee, the theater served the American war effort during World War II by selling war bonds and stamps. During World War II, it also served as the venue for a Greek Benefit Show for the Greek War Relief to help combat the Axis Powers in Greece. Not limited to simply providing support for the American war effort, the Parma Theater served as a place where Christmas parties for children were held in which candy and fruit were distributed. It was not uncommon for local residents who put their homes up for sale to emphasize that their home was in an especially attractive location partly because of the close proximity of the Parma Theater. For a long time it remained one of the gems of the local neighborhood that enhanced the quality of life for the many residents fortunate enough to live nearby.
Unfortunately, on September 9, 2012, the Parma Theater closed its doors for good.
Saving the Parma Theater
The sudden announcement of the Parma Theater’s closing spurred not just one, but two passionate campaigns to save the historic Parma Theater. Not surprisingly, these groups offered competing visions of what the Parma Theater’s future could potential look like, why it mattered, and how they planned to get there.
One campaign, led by conservative activist Michael Maxim, was seeking to save the theater by restoring it to its former glory and primarily featuring movie marathons and classic films for nostalgia buffs. The other campaign, a community effort by the Friends of Parma Theater committee, was ambitiously seeking to transform the theater into a catalyst for a future arts district in Parma’s historic downtown neighborhood. Not only would it offer movie marathons and classic films, but it would also offer the possibility of live theater productions, concerts, opportunities for arts education, and more while serving as a community hub to revitalize the area.
Maxim’s effort was the first to capture the attention of the public seeking to save the Parma Theater and appeared to have the potential to succeed. However, by November, a fire had broken out in the Parma Theater and Maxim, shortly after the fire, chose to end his efforts before the year’s end. In contrast, the community effort, led by Councilwoman Lime, began much more slowly but has gained significant traction over the past six months and continues to gain momentum.
Today, the prospect of saving and transforming the Parma Theater into an economic development catalyst for Parma’s very own arts district is becoming a very real possibility as engineers, architects, and other professionals are joining the Friends of Parma Theater committee in their campaign. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day, but the efforts surrounding the Parma Theater continue to gain traction and there is much cause for optimism with each new development.
Join the Friends of Parma Theater in Saving the Theater
Old World Parma and the Friends of Parma Theater committee are passionately committed to the cause of saving the historic Parma Theater. Check back frequently to keep up with the latest news and developments!
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