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Cleveland International Film Festival Moving To Playhouse Square

Cleveland International Film Festival Opening Night 2019 at Playhouse Square [Danny Murtaugh / CIFF]
Cleveland International Film Festival Opening Night 2019 at Playhouse Square

The Cleveland International Film Festival announced Thursday it’s moving from its longtime home in Tower City and relocating to Playhouse Square. The change won’t take place this year, but in 2021.

Created in 1977, the film festival has seen many changes over the course of four decades. Executive director Marcie Goodman said the move to Playhouse Square is the biggest decision and change in her organization's history.

Marcie Goodman, executive director, Cleveland International Film Festival [CIFF]

“In 2021, we'll be 45 years old. This will be our third home,” she said. “We spent our first 14 years at the Cedar Lee, and our next 30 years at Tower City, and now Playhouse Square, which we are looking at as our forever home.”

Playhouse Square hosted opening night CIFF festivities in the past, but starting next year, the theater district takes on a much larger role. The move ends several years of uncertainty, because Bedrock, the landlord at Tower City, would only commit to the festival on a year-to-year basis, Goodman said.

With ongoing discussions about remodeling the entire property, Goodman and her organization elected to make the move a few blocks up Euclid Avenue. Playhouse Square CEO Gina Vernaci said she is happy to welcome the festival to the mix of resident companies in the theater district.

Gina Vernaci, president and CEO, Playhouse Square  [Playhouse Square]

It actually has taken tremendous cooperation and planning because of the number of theaters we have,” she said. “We have 11 stages at Playhouse Square, so, it really has taken a lot of very focused energy and very positive energy in order to make this happen.”

For Jonathan Forman, president of Cleveland Cinemas, which operates the Tower City theaters, the move to Playhouse Square is bittersweet. Forman organized the first Cleveland International Film Festival in 1977, soon after graduating from Case Western Reserve University, where he ran the school's film program.

Jonathan Forman, Cleveland Cinemas president and founder of the Cleveland International Film Festival (left) speaks with a filmmaker at last year's CIFF. [Tim Smith / CIFF]

“I'm excited for them and this move,” he said. “While a disappointment to Tower City Cinemas, it's very exciting for me to see the festival taking yet another big leap in moving down to the cultural hub of downtown Cleveland.”

The Cleveland International Film Festival attracts more than 100,000 movie-goers in its 12-day run. This year's festival runs March 25- April 5. 

Last year's CIFF43 opening night at Playhouse Square [Tim Smith / CIFF]

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.