The Athena opened its doors in 1915, and has played film continuously over the years, placing us among the oldest movie theaters in the nation.
The theater opened as The Majestic on June 3rd, 1915 when a local family bought the building and renovated it from a grocery store.
The first film shown at the theater was Mary Pickford’s “Cinderella” and the cost of admission was 10 cents. The theater also offered burlesque and vaudeville stage shows in addition to first-run films.
The Majestic was purchased by another family in 1935, who renamed it The Athena Cinema.
They owned it until 1966, and after that time it changed hands often.
By 1988, the cinema was owned by David Lundberg, who also owned The Varsity Theater across the street (now occupied by Chipotle).
On May 28, 1988 a fire ravaged the Athena.
Following the fire, William Duerson purchased and renovated the cinema and ended an Athens’ only movie theater drought that began when The Varsity closed, also in 1988.
Duerson owned The Athena Cinema until Ohio University purchased it in 2001 and completed major renovations.
Today the Athena Cinema is operated by the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University as a three-screen, art house theater featuring independent, documentary, world and classic films, as well as student and locally produced work. The cinema has been home to the Athens International Film + Video Festival since 1974.
The Athena is staffed by students enrolled in the Federal Work Study program through Ohio University and also serves as a classroom space for the University during the daytime.
Please scroll down to join us on a walk down memory lane.
What are we missing? Do you have pictures or information about the Athena’s history? We would love to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with stories, pictures or information about the history of the Athena Cinema.