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Friday, December 28, 2007

Cincinnati's Shuttered Emery Theater: Jim Tarbell Is Working On A Revival

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The 95-year-old Emery Theater that is said to have some of the best concert hall acoustics in North America could be in store for a revival. It once was a jewel in the Queen City's crown. It seats up to 2,200, but has been abandoned and mouldering like an Egyptian tomb since the late 1990s. Former Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell -- a one-time rock concert promoter -- was spotted inside the shambled Emery, inspecting the site near downtown, and said he is working on a plan to bring it back to life. Clearly, something is up.

Tarbell invited The Bellwether through the lobby and into the auditorium, which was drab and dusty and gloomy under the dim houselights. Still, Tarbell gushed enthusiasm -- fresh paint and restoration could give the marble-columned Emery the gilt-edged glow it had when Gershwin appeared in the Jazz Age, or Nijinsky danced with a Russian ballet troupe.

Tarbell left City Hall last fall. He said he's been thinking about the Emery for years. "Imagine Dylan here, or Led Zeppelin. It would be perfect. How about A Prairie Home Companion?" The Emery would seem to be a nice fit for a touring Garrison Keeler radio show. Tarbell is imagining events like that. He didn't offer any details about financial plans, or who would put up the money to restore the theater at Walnut and Central Parkway. Tarbell did say he thought the Cincinnati Ballet, the Chamber Orchestra and Cincinnati Opera would all use the site.

In Cinema Treasures, the Emery Theater is described as a prize awaiting rediscovery.

"Prior to its film years, the Emery was home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1912 until they moved to the Music Hall in 1936. On the Emery's stage over the years appeared Russian ballet dancer Nijinsky, actresses Bette Davis and Katherine Cornell and composer George Gershwin, who played his famous 'Rhapsody in Blue' with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra shortly after he had premiered it at Carnegie Hall in New York. The theater, which is now closed, is owned by the University of Cincinnati."


  1. the event went awesome : )

    Save the Emery

    When: Saturday, July 26, 2008
    Time: 8:30:00 AM - 2:00:00 PM
    Location: Emery Theater (Central Parkway and Walnut)
    Description: The Emery Theatre, at the corner of Central Parkway and Walnut, was built in 1911 and is a half-scale Music Hall. Although it housed the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra many years ago, it has been unused for over a decade. As part of a larger effort to renovate and re-open the theater, Give Back Cincinnati will be giving the theater a much needed cleaning and painting. Check your calendar and sign up for the opportunity to do a fun project in a piece of Cincinnati history!

    Note: The Emery is an old building. Old buildings contain old paint and old paint may create dust containing lead. We will provide approved dust masks for all volunteers. If you are pregnant you may wish to consult your physician about lead paint exposure before attending the project. Click here for more information on lead paint.

    A history of the theater can be found at E-mail with any questions. Sign up now to become part of an exciting event!

  2. What ever happened to the organ? When my wife and i lived in cinci, that was a fun way to spend a saturday night.....watching movies and hearing the 'king of instruments"


  3. A benefit for the Emery?
    What for?
    Isn't it bad enough that corporations want tax bailout money - do they now want us to have charity concerts for them too?
    The time to save the Emery is past.
    Why hold a charity event to raise money for a for-profit-corporation that bought the Emery, ripped the Mighty Wurlizer out, gutted the place and turned it into expensive upscale yuppie apartments?

    The Emery is gone.

  4. Guess you didn't bother to stop by and see what a great event the benefit was and how awesome the Emery still is. As for the apts...they simply converted old classrooms - the Theatre itself is intact. Get your facts straight before posting harmful comments. Your lack of vision is appalling.