The Cedar-Lee Theatre opened on Christmas Day 1925. The first movie screened there was The King on Main Street, a silent film about a rich European king (played by Adolphe Menjou) who falls in love with a common American girl during a visit to New York's Coney Island. The one-hour film was supplemented with a number of shorts, including 30 Years Ago, The Marionettes, and A Trip Thru Kimballville.
The Cedar-Lee was originally a 1,100-seat, single-screen theater. After being purchased in 1977 by the newly created Cleveland Cinemas, however, the theater underwent a series of expansions that ultimately increased it to a six-cinema facility. Also in 1977, the Cedar-Lee was the site of the inaugural Cleveland International Film Festival, and the theater served as its home base until the festival moved to Tower City Cinemas in 1991. In recent decades the Cedar Lee has played primarily independent and foreign films. It is also known for its monthly midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Throughout the Cedar-Lee Theatre's history, the stretch of Lee Road surrounding it has been populated by a number of businesses. Bygone places to eat include a burger joint called Mawby's, Bruder's Creamery, and Marshall's Drug Store, which featured a soda fountain. These combined with various small food markets, hardware stores, and other locally owned shops to make the Cedar-Lee area a vibrant business district. While the names on the signs may have changed, the area around Cedar-Lee Theatre remains popular with shoppers and diners today.