The Capitol first opened April 8, 1921, as a silent movie house with a Wurlitzer organ, part of the larger Gordon Square Arcade complex. The theater featured a large, 1,400 seat main auditorium and provided a romantic backdrop to the quickly growing neighborhood: many residents report it was the location of choice for first dates. In the 1930s, the Capitol was converted to a “talkie.” As the neighborhood’s fortunes declined in the second half of the 20th century, the Arcade complex deteriorated as well. The Capitol closed in the early 1980s due to water infiltration and lack of any climate control system.
Efforts to restore the Gordon Square Arcade began in the early 1980s when Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) secured one of the country’s first Urban Development Action Grants to replace the roof and stabilize the building. With the advent of federal New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) in the early 2000s, it became possible to assemble a financing package for the Capitol, which was also a centerpiece of the Gordon Square Arts District capital campaign. The $7.5 million renovation project began in 2008 and the Capitol re-opened in October 2009 as a three-screen, all digital movie theater.
Classically inspired architecture, woodwork, and original light fixtures have been restored to recreate the atmosphere of the 1920s-era silent movie palace, but with all the amenities of 21st century technology. The Capitol brings over 60,000 patrons to the Gordon Square Arts District per year.
The Capitol is owned by Northwest Neighborhoods CDC (formerly DSCDO) and operated by Cleveland Cinemas, and features Hollywood and independent films. In addition, a wide variety of special programming is screened, such as Happy Hour Classics, Summer Family Films, film festivals and documentaries with Q&A for community discussion.
Northwest Neighborhoods is committed to maintaining the Capitol as an economic driver — helping to attract new residents, new investment, and a more foot traffic to support surrounding businesses. In 2020, Northwest Neighborhoods upgraded the Capitol’s two upper theatres with larger, reclining seats (a top request from patrons). The installation of 68 total new seats was made possible by a grant from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.