Cleveland Cinemas was created in 1977 when founder and current president Jonathan Forman purchased the Cedar Lee Theatre.
First opening its doors on Christmas Day 1925 as an 1,100 seat, single-screen theater, the Cedar Lee Theatre was transformed into a twin-screen theater in 1983 to compete with the increasing number of multiplexes and to meet the demand to play an ever growing number of specialty films. Two Hollywood-style screening rooms were added in 1991 - allowing guests to the theater to enjoy truly specialized films. Finally in 1994 two modern stadium-style theaters were added to bring the current screen count to six.
For more than three decades the words "Cedar Lee Theatre" and "specialty film" have been synonymous in Cleveland. Ushering in an era when specialty film would transcend art-house appeal, and coupled with its unique concession stand the first to offer baked goods, sandwiches, specialty coffee drinks, and imported beer and wine the Cedar Lee Theatre continues to be the movie theater of choice for many Greater Clevelanders.
From 1985 to 1995, Cleveland Cinemas operated the Center Mayfield Theater, also located in Cleveland Heights. The Center Mayfield Theater the first discount theater in Cleveland where guests could see a relatively recent release for a just $1 thrived for many years prior to the advent of video rentals and cable television. In addition, Cleveland Cinemas operated the Berea Theatre which flourished for five years, offering west-side residents a revitalized neighborhood theater as well as innovative programming.
In 1998, Cleveland Cinemas undertook operations and management of Tower City Cinemas, located at Tower City Center. The only multiplex in downtown Cleveland, this eleven-screen theater opened in 1990, as part of the major redevelopment of Tower City Center by Forest City Enterprises. Tower City Cinemas offers guests the opportunity to see all of the latest Hollywood releases, as well as signature specialty films. With first class projection and presentation, Tower City Cinemas is the current site of the Cleveland International Film Festival.
In December 2000, Cleveland Cinemas opened the new Shaker Square Cinemas located in historic Shaker Square in Cleveland. The meticulous renovation of the former Colony Theatre features six new state-of-the art theaters with stadium seating, ergonomically engineered Australian high back chairs with moveable armrests with cup holders, and digital sound for a satisfying movie-going experience. The restored lobby includes a new concession stand complete with all of the "usual suspects", specialty coffee, food, and beverages. In the spring of 2009 a state-of-the-art 3D digital cinema projection system was installed in the auditorium 5 at Shaker Square Cinemas.
Growth continued into 2002 when Cleveland Cinemas was asked to take on management and operations of a first-run theater in Brunswick. Hickory Ridge Cinemas is a popular neighborhood theater with 8 screens, and continues to show first-run Hollywood films. In December of 2007 Cleveland Cinemas ceased its operation of the Hickory Ridge Cinemas.
In 2004, Cleveland Cinemas added two more locations to their theater family. In April, Cleveland Cinemas took over the management of Chagrin Cinemas, a 14-screen movie theater located east of Chagrin Falls on route 422 in Bainbridge. The area on East Washington Street is an entertainment center in Bainbridge, with the multiplex nestled in between an enclosed golf dome with miniature golf and a popular family restaurant. Chagrin Cinemas even boasts a party room available to rent for birthday parties and other special events. Arcade games and a concession stand stocked with every moviegoer's favorite snacks round out the offerings at this friendly movie theater. (note: Chagrin Cinemas now has 9 total screens.)
The second addition of 2004 came in October when Cleveland Cinemas took over management of Solon Commons Cinema 16, previously managed by Regal Cinemas since 1991. With 16 screens and a new name, Solon Cinemas becomes the largest multiplex in the Cleveland Cinemas theater chain. (Note: Cleveland Cinemas no longer operates Solon Cinemas as of 2012.)
In July of 2006, Cleveland Cinemas made its first foray into another state when it began operating the Southside Works Cinema in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on behalf of the Soffer Organization. The cinema, located in the trendy lifestyle center, The Southside Works, is a ten-screen all stadium theater. Voted by Pitt News & City Paper readers the Best Movie Theater in Pittsburgh in 2006, 2007 and 2008, Southside Works Cinema shows a mixture of mainstream Hollywood, independent and foreign films. In the spring of 2009 a state-of-the-art 3D digital cinema projection system was installed in the auditorium 7 at Southside Works Cinema.
The acquisition of Plaza Cinemas at Chapel Hill in Cuyahoga Falls brought Cleveland Cinemas to the Akron Market in February of 2008. This 8 screen theater was formerly operated by AMC Theaters. Programming at this location includes limited release films along with some of Hollywood's biggest releases. (Note: This location is no longer in operation.)
In February of 2009, Cleveland Cinemas was hired by Oberlin College to operate the Apollo Theatre on its behalf. This historic single-screen theatre has been an institution in Oberlin since 1913. After a second phase of construction, the Apollo Theatre now has two screens.
The Capitol Theatre, located in the heart of Cleveland's vibrant Gordon Square Arts District, reopened on October 2, 2009 after a massive renovation converted this historic 1921 single-screen cinema into a state-of-the-art all-digital three-screen modern movie theater. The Capitol Theatre features a mix of mainstream Hollywood films and specialty and independent films.
Cleveland Cinemas now operates a total of 46 screens at 7 locations.