CH's Ewing at the helm as Cinematheque moves to new space

Cleveland Heights resident John Ewing, director of CIA's Cinematheque.

The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, which The New York Times called “one of the country’s best repertory movie theaters,” has moved to a new location. On July 30, the Cinemateque screened its final film, “The Last Picture Show,” at the Cleveland Institute of Art’s (CIA) Aitken Auditorium, its home since 1986. As of Aug. 1, the Cinematheque’s new home is CIA’s Peter B. Lewis Theater, at 11610 Euclid Ave. John Ewing, a Cleveland Heights resident, was one of the founders of the Cinematheque in 1984, and still serves as its director.

The new theater is a state-of-the-art venue, featuring a 15-by-36-foot screen, and equipped with both a digital cinema projector and an HD projector. It offers a much-improved sound system and better acoustics. The new theater also features cushioned seats, which the old theater did not have.

Ewing said the programming will not be much different from what the Cinematheque currently offers. “We will show new films that otherwise wouldn’t come to this city, and we’ll show classic films,” he said. “In addition, we will continue to show second-run films that didn’t get a fair shake at the box office, and we’ll also show different film series that are touring around the country.” The one new addition will be digital restorations of old classic films. The Cinematheque will continue to bring filmmakers, directors, producers and other movie experts into the theater to discuss their movies.

Ewing is also curator of film at the Cleveland Museum of Art. "There's no real difference between what I present at the art museum and at the Cinematheque," he said. "Sometimes at the museum the films are programmed to complement an exhibit there. Also, once I book the films at the museum, we are pretty set, while at the Cinematheque, if I see or hear of a new film, I can always schedule a showing."

Ewing, 64, grew up in Canton. At Denison University, he majored in English, and theater and film. In high school and college, he wrote movie reviews for the school papers. When he was a college senior, he spent the fall semester as an intern at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. “I would stay late and watch movies at the museum,” he said.

When he returned to Denison, he became the programmer of the college’s film series. “I decided I didn’t want to be a movie critic,” he said. “And it was great being able to show movies that I loved.”

After graduating from Denison, Ewing took a job at the Stark County District Library in Canton, where he presented movies. He then moved to the Canton Film Society and began showing films at the Canton Cultural Center. He remained there through 1983. The following year, he moved north to Cleveland Heights and took a job at the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System, presenting movies at its Lee Road branch.

Cleveland philanthropist George Gund came up with the idea for the Cinematheque. Ron Holloway, a writer for Variety magazine and an Eastern European film expert, soon joined his team, and then Ewing came on board as director. In December 1984, the Cinematheque was incorporated as a nonprofit organization and, the following July, started showing films at Case Western Reserve University. “The Cinematheque became legitimate overnight,” Ewing said.

In August 1986, the Cinematheque teamed up with CIA. “We saw the Russell B. Aitken Auditorium there, and it wasn’t really being used,” Ewing said. So the Cinematheque took over the space. Initially, movies screened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That schedule has since expanded greatly, and the Cinematheque now presents about 250 movies annually, attracting about 18,000 audience members each year.

Ewing moved to Cleveland Heights in 1983. He currently lives on Elmwood Road, and is married to Kathy Ewing, who teaches part time at Cleveland State University and writes book reviews for the Plain Dealer. Their two children, Doug, 33, and Margaret, 29, both attended Heights High.

“I never considered moving to any other suburb,” Ewing said. “I really appreciate Cleveland Heights’s love of the arts and support of the arts. I also like all of the neighborhoods and the different shopping areas, like Coventry and the Cedar Lee district. And, in addition to all of that, it’s convenient to University Circle.”

Ewing is optimistic about the Cinematheque’s future. “The bottom line is that we show really good movies,” he said. “We’re pretty selective about what we show, and we are more of a boutique operation.”


James Henke

James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.

Read More on A & E News
Volume 8, Issue 8, Posted 4:15 PM, 07.31.2015