The Drexel Theatre opened in 1937 and changed hands and management over the decades. First owned by William and Ethel Chesbrough, the Drexel was one of ten Columbus theatres under their ownership. When the couple divorced, the Drexel remained under Ethel's ownership and was leased to Jerry Knight from Bexley. Knight guarded the Drexel’s reputation throughout the 1960s and 1970s by not showing mainstream films that were too explicit. In 1981, Jeff and Kathy Frank purchased the theater and renovated the interior to make it compatible with its original 1930s design.
For 30 years, the Franks screened classic films and also took a risk on genres that weren’t being screened in Columbus at the time such as foreign, documentary, and art films. The format allowed the Drexel to be an art house for independent film, providing film lovers an eclectic screening experience. In 2009, however, the financial crisis left the Drexel’s future uncertain.
A local group of art lovers and patrons created Friends of the Drexel, Inc. as an independent, not-for-profit organization to sustain the future of the historic Drexel Theatre. When the Franks retired in 2011, Friends of the Drexel purchased the theater and looped in CAPA to manage operations. Since then, Friends of the Drexel took on many renovation projects to return the theater to its original Art Deco appearance. At the same time, they also updated it for modern films with digital projection, an upgraded sound system, and closed-captioning system. In 2015, the Drexel was designated as a historic building that contributed much to Columbus’ recreation and culture and was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Post cover photo from Onasill ~ Bill Badzo - 65.7M via Creative Commons Search via Flickr.