Oberlin College goes Hollywood with purchase of vintage movie theater that draws help from stars

Hollywood and TV actress lends support to Oberlin

OBERLIN, Ohio - It is usually quiet in quaint Oberlin. However in a big way, both the city and the college that are vital parts of this Northeast Ohio community have gone Hollywood, at least for a while. 

Some of the stardom of Hollywood swept into Oberlin as the college opened the doors to its newest acquisition: the Apollo Theatre.

Since 1913, the Apollo has flashed its marquee in the center of the small community in Lorain County. There was considerably more flash when Hollywood and television actress Rhea Perlman helped cut the ribbon in the grand opening of the $6 million renovation of theater, now owned by the college and run by Cleveland Cinemas.  

Aside from the showings of movies, part of the theater complex will be devoted to classrooms for Oberlin students studying cinema production.

"Part of our mission is to create exciting visual and performing arts activities and this is very much a part of that mission," said Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov, sweeping his arms proudly over the theater seating.

Perlman and her husband, actor Danny DeVito, donated money to the project, as did "Silence of the Lambs" director Jonathan Demme, whose son and daughter attended Oberlin College. Perlman and Demme were special guests at the grand opening of the renovated theater.

"Wow," said Perlman as she spoke to a full house of guests at the grand opening. The Apollo Theater opened its doors in 1913. It's historic art deco style was maintained by the workers, who transformed the theater into an up-do-date showplace with equipment able to show any type of movie.

The upstairs part of the theater will be largely devoted to classrooms where Oberlin cinema students can learn the art of making movies, both featured and documentary. 

"You can go upstairs as a student and learn how to make films and tell your own stories and show them on the screen," said Rian Brown, professor of Oberlin's cinema studies.

Professor Geoff Pingree noted there is a facility for high school students from throughout Lorain County and other communities to venture into moviemaking.  Next door to the theater is a theater outreach facility for younger students.

"We want to work with kids in schools to make their own videos, to tell their own stories," said Pingree.

OberlinCollegeeven plans to have tributes to the makers of silent films in the early days of the 20th century. There will be special showings of silent film classics, where musicians from Oberlin will provide the live music in the theater.

"It's going to be a great opportunity for the cinema people, the music people, for the history people, for everybody," Krislov said.  Film is something that cuts across all the traditional boundaries."

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