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LIMA ‚?? It's easy to overlook now, but tucked into the northwest corner of the square is a space that was once a movie theater.The Ohio Historic Preservation Office lists its terracotta facade, done in the Sullivanesque style, as significant. The National Register of Historic Places also thinks highly of the building, next to ArtSpace/Lima facing south.At the beginning of 1911, the papers were atwitter with the news of another movie theater opening in town. With this addition, there were five theaters, ‚??so Lima will have ample opportunity to enjoy this form of diversion,‚?Ě a Jan. 7, 1911, story reported.The Collins Block was home to the Empire Theatre. A hotel took center stage, but a cinema was tucked to the side. It showed ‚??pictures‚?Ě that ranged from travel programs to silent films. Soon, it was showing bona fine attractions.‚??Since the Empire Theater has started to show first-run good pictures, it has gained confidence of the people and is drawing very good crowds,‚?Ě a story from Sept. 24, 1915, reported.By 1919, there was talk of enlargening the theater. It would be called the Sigma.‚??Entrance to the interior will be modestly set off with heavy doors with beveled cut glass. ‚?Ľ The interior of the theater proper will be arranged in the form of a dome, with stucco work which it is said will cost 10,000. There will be a color scheme of silver grey and old ivory,‚?Ě a story reported Aug. 17, 1919. The draperies, made of silk velour, were made at The Leader Store and displayed in the store's windows for all to see before installation in 1920. The theater also had an orchestral organ as well as orchestra pit. At that time, movies were 30 cents for adults for an evening showing, and the opening was a capacity crowd.This was a time when programs were printed for shows and ushers helped patrons to their seats.In the 1920s, the Ritzler family got involved. This family ran Lima Theatrical Enterprises and operated the Sigma, Lyric, State and Faurot Opera House. The theater was remodeled again in the 1930s when the family entered into a contract with Warner Brothers Theaters. The Sigma reopened in 1931 with a newly painted marquee with 850 electric lights.In 1949, fire struck. The Sigma burned in February.‚??Fire, believed to have originated in a women's restroom, destroyed the interior of the Sigma theater early Tuesday. Loss was estimated at moret han $200,000,‚?Ě a March 1, 1949, story reported. A patrolman saw smoke at 2:05 a.m., and by the time firefighters opened the doors to work, they were met with a wall of fire. Originally, there were no plans to rebuilt but the owners rethought it and announced they would reopen March 1, 1950. It screened Alfred Hitchcock's ‚??Stage Fright‚?Ě that night, with workers finishing the marquee just minutes before opening.Manager Ted Davidson judged it as a success because he found 37 wads of chewing gum under the seats in the first 15 hours of operation, an April 18, 1950, story reported.It fell on harder times in the 1960s, struggling to find its place among the second-run theaters. The Ohio Theater screened quality, first-run films like ‚??The Green Berets‚?Ě while the Sigma specialized in older films with smaller admissions.In the 1970s, the Sigma changed yet again. Operated by William Dakota, who recently attempted a run for Lima mayor, it began screening movies under the Cinema 1 banner. Dakota began to show X-rated films ‚?? claiming he was losing money showing family films and decided to make a change in the business plan.Allen County Prosecutor Lawrence S. Huffman took exception and called the theater a public nuisance. Dakota claimed Huffman had a personal vendetta against him. With obscenity an exceptionally tricky thing for a court to rule on, it came down to a matter of taste ‚?? complete with official discussions of soft-core versus hard-core porn and undercover officers secretly taking photos of what was on the screen. Dakota and other owners tried, but the business failed in the end.In 1981, the space was converted to offices for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, and St. Rita's Medical Center bought it in 1996.






Let’s go to the movies: A look back at the cinema on the square


Let’s go to the movies: A look back at the cinema on the square
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