Cincinnati Esquire Theatre

The Esquire Theatre. A Historic, 110-Year Old Treasure. Saved and Resurrected by the Residents of Clifton

Many people visiting the Esquire aren’t aware how historic the theater really is—or just how close it came to becoming a fast-food chain restaurant.

The Esquire Theatre is an independently and locally owned Movie Theatre in Cincinnati Ohio. It primarily shows Art House, Foreign Language and Documentary films with Cult Classic and local filmmaker events. The Theatre was originally built as The Clifton Opera House, a 1 screen Theatre in 1911 with a small stage showing silent films and featuring live events. In 1915 it became the Clifton Theatre and in 1927 began showing movies with sound. On December 24th 1939 the Theatre was renamed Esquire Theatre. After surviving the Great Depression, the introduction of television, the birth and rise of home videos and competition from suburban megaplex cinemas, the theatre closed in 1983. The next year a Wendy’s fast food restaurant was proposed in its place. The neighborhood residents beat back the efforts and from 1984-1987 community members banded together and Clifton Town Meeting and Clifton Theatre Corp. contested the restaurant, eventually leading to the Ohio Supreme Court. In 1987 Clifton Theatre Corp. successfully won the final court battle and began fundraising to reopen. Clifton had based its opposition to fast food restaurants on guidelines written by CTM for a Ludlow Ave “Environment Quality District”, which stated that fast food restaurants on Ludlow are inappropriate. The City had accepted the guidelines and put them in its Zoning Code a few years earlier. The Ohio Supreme Court stated in its decision that CTM EQD guidelines were a model of land use planning. The Theatre reopened as a 3 screen Theatre in 1990. In 1999 3 more auditoriums were added. Located in the heart of the Clifton Gaslight District just down the hill from the University of Cincinnati, 110 years later, the Esquire Theatre endures as a neighborhood jewel with a beautiful Art Deco facade designed by Architect Paul Muller, the Executive Director of the Cincinnati Preservation Society as one of the few for-profit Art Houses left in the Country. Had the restaurant opened, it would have meant more than the loss of a movie theater; it would have changed the character of the entire Clifton Gaslight neighborhood. More can be learned on our “HISTORY & RECOGNITION” page under “ABOUT US” at esquiretheatre.com. We also have many “Flash Back” photos and information on our Instagram account @esquiretheatre.

Contact Information

Esquire Theatre
Reservations and Information:
513.281.2803

Address:
320 Ludlow Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220, United States

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Location

Other Information

  • Hours Open

    Depends on showtimes on website
  • Seasons Open

    Open all year long!
  • Prices and Fees

    Prices vary based on event
  • Accessibility

    Parking options: On-street parking is often available on -- or near -- Ludlow Ave. The Esquire validates tickets for moviegoers for two hrs. of parking in the "Merchant Lot" on Howell, located one block from Ludlow Ave. (side street off Clifton Ave. -- behind the former IGA Grocery Store.) Howell Ave. is parallel to Ludlow Ave. Valet Parking available in front of La Poste Eatery on Telford St. (just around the corner from the Esquire, off Ludlow). Valet Service costs $7.00 and is available Fri. & Sat., from 5:30 -10 pm.
  • Locally or Family Owned Notes

    We are locally owned and operated!