The Drexel Theatre’s Ohio historic landmark memorial was unveiled at 6 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2017. Having been added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, the Drexel has been making its way through the ranks, finally getting the iconic brown, Ohio-shaped sign outside of its doors.
“It’s such a treat to be able to have this,” Kevin Rouch, the theatre’s director, said.
In the early 20th century, small, neighborhood movie theaters thrived. By 1940, almost 40 theatrers were functioning amongst the suburbs surrounding Columbus, with nine downtown. The Drexel Theatre was (and still is) one of those theatres. Located on Main Street in Bexley, it was constructed in 1937 and opened in December of that same year.
By the mid-20th century, however, many of the theaters faced overwhelming obstacles. Changes in film distribution, decline in the downtown area of Columbus, and the movement from local businesses to larger centers such as malls all led to an overall lack of support in these small theaters.
The Drexel, however, has yet to fall victim to the modern multiplex. Throughout the years, the Drexel has undergone various changes and renovations, including lobby and marquee renovations.
“We were recognized because of what we offer the community,” Rouch said.
The theater specializes in independent and sometimes foreign film, something that many larger cinema chains, such as AMC, may not show.
“Back in the day, there were 40-some neighborhood theaters, in the ’30s and ’40s, and we’re down to three, and we’re one of those three,” Rouch said. “It’s just nice to be recognized.”
The Drexel’s journey has been difficult. During the recession in 2009, the theater suffered a significant financial crisis. Then, a non-profit community group known as Friends of Drexel came in to save the theater in hopes of keeping it alive for future generations.
Although undergoing some hard times, the Drexel Theatre stands taller than ever — now with an Ohio historic landmark in its midst.