From drive-ins to international films, find your cinema niche in Ohio
Most people are familiar with big-name films shot in Ohio like The Avengers or the Shawshank Redemption. But the Buckeye State is far more than a good backdrop to a movie.
Across the state, filmmakers are producing hundreds of movies each year and celebrating them at major film festivals, a new crop of film students are learning their trade and dozens of independent theaters are keeping the idea of a night at the movies alive.
Check out our guide to Ohio film festivals, resources for filmmakers and unique theaters across the state:
Whether you’re an aspiring filmmaker, a seasoned producer or a lover of indie cinema, Ohio has a variety of film festivals across the state to feed your inner critic.
First up in 2020 is the Cleveland International Film Festival, which has been running for more than 40 years. The festival promotes “artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community,” and runs in 2020 from March 25-April 5. Last year’s festival drew more than 100,000 in attendance, featuring 213 feature films and 237 short films from 71 different countries of origin.
This year, the Film Festival of Columbus (known as FFOCOL), has been rebranded as Cinema Columbus, a definitive new festival showcasing cinematic works from around the world. The change comes after a partnership between festival organizers and the Columbus Association of Performing Arts. The festival will now incorporate showings at the Drexel Theatre, Gateway Film Center, the Lincoln Theatre and other CAPA venues around the city. In 2020, the event runs May 7-17.
Columbus also boasts the longest running film festival in America, the Columbus International Film & Animation Festival, which debuted in 1952. Operated by Film Columbus, the festival features both festival and juried competition aspects, “rewarding the world’s best films, regardless of origin” and “promoting and screening more and more films every year.” The 68th annual event takes place April 17-18 in 2020.
A younger festival, the Cindependent Film Festival is supported by a variety of Cincinnati partners and enters its third year in 2020. This festival aims to “cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit of filmmaking,” and runs Aug. 27-29 this year at Cincinnati’s Woodward Theater.
Support for Filmmakers
Inspired by what’s already happening? Looking for fellow creatives? From school programs to supportive organizations, Ohio can help you take the next step.
If your love of movies has you seeking a film career, most Ohio universities can help you reach your goals. Ohio University’s film program is well-know, as are the programs at Oberlin, Ohio State, Cleveland State and more. And for an art-school vibe, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Cleveland Institute of Art and Columbus College of Art and Design all have dedicated film studies.
For a less scholarly feel, check out organizations in your area. Getting involved with Cleveland Film, Film Cincinnati, the Mid-Ohio Filmmakers Association, the Ohio Film Group or Women in Film Cincinnati can all help tie you to the Ohio movie scene. And if you need to navigate the legal difficulties of a video production, check out the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.
Throughout nearly every corner of Ohio, moviegoers can support local theaters in addition to large chains like AMC or Cinemark.
Thanks in part to Cleveland Cinemas, theaters are thriving in northeast Ohio. The organization has been growing since 1977, and operates the Apollo Theatre, Capitol Theatre, Cedar Lee Theatre, Chagrin Cinemas, Southside Works Cinema and Tower City Cinemas. Another regional chain, Atlas Cinemas, has a variety of theaters in the area. For the artsy film buff, Cinematheque offers interesting programming and student discounts. There are even some outdoor options remaining — the Mayfield Road Drive-In, Midway Twin Drive-In and the Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In.
In the northwest part of the state, drive-ins are just as popular. The Field of Dreams Drive-in and the Sundance Kid Drive-In are both staples. Sundance operators Great Eastern Theatres also run the Maumee Indoor Theatre and Paramount Cinema, while the independent Eastwood Theater has been running for more than 100 years.
Columbus and the surrounding central Ohio area offers a variety of independent theaters with different moods. The Gateway Film Center is a world-renowned home of indie films and festivals, while Studio 35 and the Grandview Theater offer a food-and-drink experience. The Drexel Theatre and the Strand Theatre are both long-running pillars of their neighborhoods, along with the South Theater just outside the city. The South Drive-In Theatre is the last outdoor option standing in central Ohio.
In and around Cincinnati, southwest group Theatre Management Corp. anchors the independent film scene, operating the Esquire Theatre, Mariemont Theatre and Kenwood Theatre. The historic Parkland Theatre is also still in operation.
Filling out the rest of the state are a variety of theatres, both old and new. The Neon is a downtown Dayton classic, while Cinépolis in Miamisburg adds a modern twist. A favorite of the Ohio University crowd, the Athena Cinema has operated in Athens for more than 100 years, with the Athena Grand as a newer alternative.