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Cinematheque's John Ewing Wants Cleveland Movie Fans to Know Morrie Zryl

Morrie Zryl was known in Cleveland for his outrageous promotional stunts for movies.

That included hiring a helicopter to fly over Shaker Square with the release of "Apocalypse Now" and painting the snow outside his Colony theater for the "Color Purple."  He recently passed away in Florida.

Cinematheque director John Ewing was so inspired by Zryl's passion that he wants to make sure a new generation knows his legacy. 


Cinematheque director John Ewing [photo: ideastream]

Recently, Ewing was talking to a pair of young, Cleveland cinephiles about the local movie impresario and neither knew who he was.

"I was dumbfounded. There are a lot of other people who'd never heard of Morrie Zyrl, and I think he needs to be remembered," Ewing said.

In Ewing's latest "Cinema Talk" column in the Cinematheque's bi-monthly movie schedule, he dedicates the entire thing to a remembrance of his late mentor.

"He loved movies. I think he actually loved to promote movies maybe more than he loved even watching movies," Ewing said.

Zryl operated the old Colony theater in the 1980s located where Shaker Square Cinemas is today.

"He's operating a large, expensive single-screen theater, expensive to heat and to air condition in an age when multiplex theaters are popping up all over the place. So he was already kind of a dinousaur," Ewing said.

Zyrl was passionate about showing films in the 70 mm format, but the major studios at the time weren't running first-run, 70 mm films in Cleveland.

"You really needed a big hit to just pay the overhead for a large, single-screen theater like the Colony," Ewing said.

To get people to come to the Colony, Zryl devised flashy promotions for the big film screenings.

"He was kind of like the P.T. Barnum of the Cleveland movie scene," Ewing said.  "He allegedly staged a chariot race around Shaker Square for a revival of Ben Hur."

Ewing greatly appreciated that Zryl would take the time to talk to him back when he was getting the Cinematheque started.

"I would seek him out. It was hard to pull yourself away because you start talking movies and it kinda sucks you in," Ewing said.

Read John Ewing's tribute to Morrie Zryl in the March/April edition of Cinema Talk

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