Inside the hulking, pitched-roof building at the corner of Parkland and Twain Avenues, Sayler Park's epicenter of entertainment has captivated the imaginations of locals since it opened in 1881. Known as the Parkland Theatre, it's reportedly Cincinnati's oldest operating movie house.
Those early days were all about vaudeville acts–the 19th century equivalent of America's Got Talent and every other variety show that's popular now. It converted to a moving picture house in the 1920s.
Ed and Jenny Miller own the building today. Ed does IT full time and runs the Parkland as more of a community project than a profitable business. Rent from the four apartments and bar occupying the building around it pay to keep the theater's doors open. Though he's helped with its operation since the early '90s, Ed's owned it since 2005 when he bought out his cousin and business partner. Since then, he's done loads of work to fix the place up.
The single-screen movie theater now boasts 80 leather seats, stadium seating, digital projection, surround sound, and its signature feature–an impressive spectacle of laser lights.
"We replaced everything," Ed says. According to him, nearly the entire place needed a heavy amount of TLC to get it to where it is today. After years of work and acting as a second-run theater, he's achieved first-run status and now shows new films when they debut. But not all new films.
"I don't play rated R. I don't even play most PG-13s," he says, citing his faith as his reason. "I'm not even a Catholic–I'm a devout Catholic."
The theater, though, hasn't always been a squeaky clean joint. His uncle, Bill Bauer, bought the place in 1956 and put the bar in the front of the building. They played rated R films over the ensuing years.
Today, though, it's a family-friendly affair. Amazingly, only one staff person runs the place when it's open. They do everything, from projection to concession, during their shift. Candy ranges from $1 to $3, and the concession stand serves hot food, like pizza, in addition to the standard popcorn and cola. He intentionally keeps the prices low to attract families to visit the Parkland without them worrying about cost.
That's a far cry from other cinemas operating in town.
His biggest profit comes from birthday parties and private events. For a fee, someone can rent the entire theater. Ed loves it.
“I really enjoy when kids are having fun, laughing. When something funny happens, the energy level goes off the chart.”
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The Parkland Theatre is located at 6550 Parkland Avenue (45233). A single admission ticket is only $8.