The Capitol Theatre opened inside the 10-story Kahl Building in downtown Davenport on Christmas Day 1920. At the time of opening, it was considered a state-of-the-art movie palace and was the largest such venue in the state, with a capacity for 2,500 patrons. The stage was expanded in 1925 to allow for a wider variety of theatrical productions and vaudeville performances. By 1977, the Capitol Theatre ceased operation as a working movie theatre.
In 1994, the theatre, along with the entire Kahl Building was donated to Scott County Community College, part of the Eastern Iowa Community College District. Two years later, the building opened as an education facility and currently, 1,000 students take classes in the building each semester.
In February 2008, the Community College entered an lease agreement with a newly-established local organization, Capitol Theatre LLC. In exchange for the lease cost of $1 per year, the organization would be responsible for maintenance, renovations, and booking of the historic venue. Though the slowly gained traction and saw several successful events booked, Capitol Theatre LLC was unable to secure the estimated $2 million needed to renovate and modernize the building’s 90-year-old physical systems, and the theatre’s last event was held June 5, 2010.
In 2003, the Total United Northwood Effort (TUNE) community betterment group spent $1 to acquire the two story J. B. Thompson building in downtown Northwood, which was originally constructed for use as a general store in 1891. Over the next six years, nearly $500,000 was spent on renovation and restoration of the historic building, which included costs to replace the roof, rebuild floors, and update plumbing, heating, lighting, and electrical wiring. New cinema equipment was purchased to provide patrons with digital video and surround sound. On August 28, 2009, work was complete and the Northwood Theatre opened its doors to the public.
Movies are shown evenings Monday through Saturday, with a Sunday afternoon matinee. Cost is just $4.00 for adults, while students 18 and under are admitted for $3.00. Concessions at the single-screen theatre are also cheap: just $1.00 gets moviegoers a small popcorn, while a small pop runs $1.50. To see the current movie and showtimes, check out the Northwood Theatre website.
Follow-up Note: A marquee was added to the theatre in March 2010.
The four-screen theatre in the Shelby County seat of Harlan in 1882 as Long’s Opera House. By 1930, the theatre was showing primarily movies and rebranded as the Harlan Theatre, which it is still known as today. In the 1990s, adjacent retail buildings were purchased to add two additional screens. In 2002, the original theatre was cut in half, and after time as a clothing store and liquor store, it was remodeled to house a fourth screen. The theatre has been owned by the Backer family for over 50 years.
The Palace Theatre in the Benton County seat of Vinton may be the only place in the United States moviegoers can watch a 3-D movie for just $3. The technology came to the theatre in 2010 following an $80,000 fundraising effort led by the local managers and Palace board members. Other upgrades in recent years include a new digital sound system, box office remodeling, and online ticketing capabilities, making the Palace Theatre one of the best entertainment values in the state.
The theatre building dates to 1915, when it was opened as a movie house for silent pictures and live traveling performers. The venue survived a 1932 fire and served area residents for nearly 60 years before closing in 1972. After use as a bakery, gym, and other retail operations, the building was purchased by the community theatre group ACT I, renovated, and reopened in November 1999. The theatre can host both first-run movies and plays from the ACT I group.
Since 2006, Gerald and Marcy Horst have managed the Palace Theatre. Their plans for 2011 include installation of more comfortable seating and enhanced concession options. For current showtimes and more, check out the Palace Theatre website or call (319) 472-9958.
The Hancock County town of Britt has been connected with hobos since 1974, when several Britt residents joined with hobos Hood River Blackie, Steamtrain Maury, and Feather River John to establish the non-profit Hobo Foundation. After its launch, a National Hobo Convention event was created to take place annually in Britt, and in 1988, the foundation purchased the former Chief Theatre for use as a Hobo Museum. It opened the following year.
In 2004, concerns about deterioration of the 92-year-old theatre building surfaced and the a fundraising effort began to build a new museum in Britt. After five years, only a third of necessary funds had been raised, so the Hobo Foundation board voted to shift efforts toward the improvement and renovation of the Hobo Museum in its current location. Long-term plans are still being reviewed, with immediate goals to improve the building structurally and upgrade heating and air conditioning systems.
The museum is open June through August, or by appointment; visit the Hobo Museum website for details.