Mills Theatre Could Be Razed, Replaced by New Theater

posted by btkrefft on January 19, 2006 at 7:42 am

LAKE MILLS, IA — A non-proft group, Lake Mills Entertainment, Inc., has made a request to the city of Lake Mills to demolish the 1937 Art Moderne Mills Theatre, closed since 2001, and build a new movie theater on the same site, according to the Globe Gazette.

The group originally wanted to restore the Mills but it has deteriorated so badly since it was shuttered that according to Lake Mill Entertainment’s president, Scott Helgeson, tearing it down and constructing a new theater would be much cheaper. Thus far the group has raised over $40,000 towards the project, but Helgeson says they’ll need financial support from the city “to get over the hump”. No decision has been made yet by the city of Lake Mills according to Mayor Dave Anderson.

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Comments (2)

NativeForestHiller on January 19, 2006 at 7:18 pm

How much funding is needed to restore/renovate the theater, & bring it back to its original splendor? Theaters are no longer constructed in the Art Moderne style; a style of sleek streamlined facades, elegant curves, wise & inspiring color schemes, and glass blocks. Most buildings from way back when were planned with attention to detail at its finest. This movie theater houses countless sentiments.

Mr. Helgeson of Lake Mills Entertainment, I urge you to please listen, coordinate a series of fundraisers, & take into account the opinions of the majority. I am sure there are many others who are in favor of saving the charming Mills Theatre from the wrecking ball. Please do what it takes to ensure its preservation. I am from New York, but I am enthusiastic about saving structures with architectural, cultural, & historical attributes, which paint a picture of our heritage. Thank you! (PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ALONG TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE NON-PROFIT).

SimplexXL on February 25, 2006 at 6:21 am

Sadly, this wonderful old theatre has already seen the wrecking ball. The entire auditorium was demolished and removed several years ago leaving only the “storefront” lobby area standing. While it may be possible to restore this small lobby area to it’s original art deco lustre, it may not be realistic to do so. What is left is so deteriorated and in disrepair that it simply may be easier to eliminate it as well and start from scratch.

I was the projectionist at this theatre from roughly 1979 to mid 1981 or so. Running the twin Simplex-XL’s with Peerless Magnarcs was one of the funnest times I’ve had. I actually worked 7 nights a week and loved every minute of it. Even back then, this theatre was in a sad state of disrepair. After decades of use and roof leaks, it showed it’s age even in those years. A couple of attempts to fix it up in the eighties apparently wasn’t enough to keep it going. Lake Mills is a small town and support for the local theatre was lacking. New theatres in nearby large communities seemed to draw most of the movie going crowd.

I’m cheering for the new effort to restore an active theatre in my hometown! When it opens, I’ll be there for the opening screening. It would be super to have the old place restored, but I suspect there will be many smiles in a new modern movie house too.

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