Ioka Theater

55 Water Street,
Exeter, NH 03833

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Showing 26 - 34 of 34 comments

rdetzler on February 1, 2007 at 8:15 am

The theater is not officially for sale, it was but the listing ran out some time ago. The IOKA is now 91 years old and still moving along, albeit with the usual difficulties. Rising utilities, insurance, and most recently the enforcement of the new state fire codes, etc. In 2006 we were flooded out and then bombed by golf ball sized hail. Still we endure. It was our hope that the sale would attract one or more intereted parties that could have been joined together to create a new non-profit entity to take ownership of the theater. Under its current ownership structure, creating a non-profit to make the IOKA eligible for various forms of funding appears difficult. We would greatly appreciate the help of anyone who happens to be an expert in non-profit matters. We are in serious need of outside funding to help us meet our required safety improvements. If we cannot meet these improvements it is very likely that we will be forced to close. Once again I would like to thank the enormous efforts of my staff and the support of our fans.

rdetzler on November 1, 2005 at 5:24 am

Hi again from the IOKA,

Just here to tell everyone that we are still open and will be for the holiday movie season, which looks to have at least a couple of hits.

That means the IOKA will turn 90! Actually its official anniversary was Oct 31, 2005. We are throwing a week long series of events from Nov 10-17th to celebrate.

Unfortunately, after the new year the IOKA will be closed for movies due to the incredibly high costs of heating the structure and the lack of decent movies that would appeal to our customers. However, we will be open for several special events in the months of January and February so keep an eye on our website

Will the IOKA rejoin the movie business? I am uncertain at this point. Our main competition is adding several more screens. Single screen theaters can ONLY survive with strong local support. With the support of the community for both our movies and special events we can survive.

Also I would like to clarify some comments made in an earlier post. After a recent conversation with our Chief of Police regarding some of the incidents that have occurred, I have been assured that the enforcement we have been subject to has not been from our local police department.

Roger Detzler

rdetzler on September 27, 2005 at 2:31 am

Hello All,

Keep meaning to get here and make a few comments myself, instead of having everyone do it for me. I won’t spend alot of time goingt into the history of the IOKA as that is pretty well recorded here. Instead I would like to write about what has taken place under my ownership.

Though I am a movie fan, it was the opportunity to restore live entertainment to the IOKA, and the nightclub operation that inspired me to buy it. I have now spent the better part of two years improving the facility and slowing producing more and more events.

The list of improvements includes a new boiler, the first set of stage curtains in over 40 years, a complete renovation of the balcony with new seats, the installation of a state of the art PA system, installation of a new LED stage lighting system, concessions redesign, overhauling the movie sound system, and doubling the size of the stage (by capping the original orchestra pit, a controversial but necessary step), as well as countless other small improvements. Still to go is an electrical service upgrade, redesign of the main screen and construction of dressing rooms.

You Brenkert fans will be glad to know that htey are still up there churning away. in fact if anyone is in need of Brennkert BX-80 and 100 heads, I now have nearly 20 in my collection.

However you carbon arc fans will have to forgive me. In the interest of efficency we did take the step of installing a platter system in the upper booth, and replacing the old Ashcroft carbon lighthouse with a Xenon box. Projector one is still pristine and we do still use it to run one reelers occassionally.

Sadly the IOKA is struggling and its future is uncertain. I don’t need to tell anyone here what a disaster the movie business has been in 2005. One flop after another has left our bottom line hurting badly. Worse, our attempts to being a diversity of live entertainment to the IOKA have received nothing but yawns from the surrounding community who seem to have little interest in supporting cultural progamming.

Worse yet we are being constantly harassed by the local police and liquor commission who literally sit in cars outside our doors in full view of our patrons. It has so damaged the night club business that we were forced to close it to the public, and now operate the lower level strictly as a function room. I am convinced this town does not want an entertainment complex as part of its downtown. I have never heard or seen anything like this. Most communities would bend over backward to support something like the IOKA, yet Exeter not only seems to care less, it is all but assisting in the eventual closure of its ONLY venue.

How much longer will the IOKA survive? Difficult to say. We have suspended all further improvements, and are cutting goperating expenses wherever possible. I am actively searching for additional investors in order to complete the improvement plan and move forward with event programming in the hope that the public will begin to understand that the IOKA is far more than a movie theater.


Roger Detzler
IOKA Entertainment Inc

ghostdancer on December 31, 2004 at 5:58 am

Your comments regarding the swimming pool are indeed fact. It was cleaned out after the Y was X’d.
I am very happy the Ioka is still open. I had heard that she had been closed for some time, but have not been nearby to verify that statement. It broke my heart when I heard about it.

It should be noted that the Ioka is also perhaps the oldest original Vaudeville theatre in the nation that is run as a theatre, and also one of the oldest single-screen theatres- one of few left with silver screens.

When the theatre was built, no Roxy or Royale was good enough, so a theatre-naming contest was launched. The name “Ioka”– a Native American word that means “peaceful place or playground”– was selected; the winner- an eight year old girl.

In case anyone is curious, the large screen in the main theatre is an original silver screen, capable of showing 3-D films in their proper form. Underneath it is a full Vaudeville stage, flanked by tiny but worthy dressing rooms that were later used to store popcorn cups and napkins. Underneath that is a spooky little storage area, with a lock on the inside.
The lights at the foot of the stairs, stage right, would often flick off when someone was alone up in the high dressing room.

The two 35 mm projectors are original (and were pristine), with 1938 Art Deco carbon-arc lit Brinkert picture heads (God help me I can’t spell Brinkart just now), paired with equally original RCA soundheads. Beautiful machines. The carbon rods (no one manufactures these anymore) were usually acquired after a two or four hour drive to some sad little broken down theatre… or bartered for… sent away for…prayed for. The 35mm reels were run individually, as the gods intended, and the foot pedals- a satisfying way to change mastership on a pair of machines- were retained. Films that came to the theatre were restored to every possible degree… they often had to be, since running them through other theatres in first run on a platter system often damaged the film.

The shows were run with painstaking attention to details- like proper aspect ratio (dimensions of the projected image on the screen)and scrupulous masking (the black felt covered frame around the silver screen that precisely met the edge of the projected image). One might recall dozens of hours moving the masking legs.. “more to the left.. no, right.. a little more… no, back…dammit..move it ahead.. right…”

The theatre downstairs would doubtless have the 1940 something 16 millimeter carbon arc projector (nicknamed “Sparky”, because it did…). I don’t know what he used for a screen down there.

Yes- that photo would be post-1994. The Marquee was painted in 1991 or 92, and the Chrysler (it was original, and ran like the wind) was purchased around 1993 if one remembers correctly. The picture works, though, doesn’t it?

The candy counter is a fully functional soda fountain, purchased, as I remember, in 1992. A creatively themed lunch menu was served for awhile during the 90’s, and that fountain made a mean Black & White. The entire lobby was rennovated to Art Deco at that time.

Speaking of black and white, it’s a shame he took the Fotoplayer- it was nice, worked well, and suited the theatre. But, yes, he did buy it himself. It really was the only Fotoplayer available to the public, unless something has changed since that time. It took a dual trip across the U.S. and back to locate one, and it was a dream come true for him. I am unable to recall where he found that one- Maryland perhaps.

As far as sex with the projectionist goes, I will say that interesting things certainly went on there (mostly, I understand, before my time), but as far as I know, there was only one female projectionist working independently there between the Ioka’s reopening in 1976(*) and 1994, when the aforementioned pool was capped… and I myself would never have agreed to sex on the balcony during a film… it would make it somewhat difficult to maintain frame and focus, and it would probably distract the patrons.
Perhaps other women have, er, projected since my work there, but I imagine this- like many Iokaisms- is wishful thinking of the part of the young local. No matter. The real legends of the Ioka will stay with its ghosts.

I am glad the basement is serving a better purpose.
The Jazz sounds good, too. Whomever Roger Detzler is, I offer him my warmest welcome and congratulations, and my hopes that he will endeavor to preserve the integrity of the Ioka Theatre for the generations to come. I imagine that business is better these days-it looks like the previous owner bid on first run and won, but in case I am mistaken, I want to say this: I know that furniture stores and bowling alleys are monetarily tempting in the face of ancient cinema, but keep the faith, Mr. Detzler- you captain a wonderful little ship. The Ioka is a national treasure, and a part of my heart will forever remain one its carbonless spirits.

hollister22nh on December 21, 2004 at 5:11 pm

I forgot to mention, a life long Exeter resident claims that the basement had a swimming pool. This pool was full of junk and old movie reels. This person also claims to have had sex with the projectionist on the balcony during a film, so I don’t know how accurate this is.


richardg on October 31, 2004 at 6:18 pm

I drove through Exeter on a weekday morning about 11:30 am and, of course, just as I expected, the theatre was closed. I spotted and interesting restaurant and went for lunch. It was a lucky lunch, because went I walked by the theatre again for a second try to gain entry a workman had the door propped open. I gave myself a tour. One side of the candy counter has integrated stools. This is one lovely little theatre and I certainly reccomend going out of your way to see it. The Chrysler, a 1957 I believe, was nowhere to be seen.

hollister22nh on September 27, 2004 at 2:59 pm

That “vintage exterior” view isn’t vintage at all. I’d say that picture is only a few years old at the most. That particular car was owned by the previous theater owner, and he parked it there all the time! I used to live about two blocks from there. Its “sad” he took the fotoplayer when he left, but considering he had taken it apart I guess it would be good that he take it because nobody else could put it back together. The owner got a new job in Texas I believe and that’s why the theater was sold.


JohnColes on March 4, 2004 at 12:21 pm

According to Roger Detzler, President of IOKA Entertainment Inc., Club Ioka has recently reopened and expanded to include a cigar/pipe room, a party suite and live jazz every Thursday. At one time there was an American Fotoplayer in the theater. According to a web site that no longer exists (Google had it cached), the American Fotoplayer was the only one still available for the public to see and hear. This combination theater organ, player piano, and special sound effects device was the only one not in a private collection. It was the personal property of the prior owner of the Ioka Theater and went with him when Detzler recently purchased the theater. Their new web site should be on-line again soon.