Princess Theater

314 4th Street,
Des Moines, IA 50316

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Data on this Flickr page says that the Princess Theatre was at 314 4th Street.

However, Marcia Meller, the author of the article on this web page, gives the impression that the Princess was never a movie theater, but in 928 went directly from being a legitimate house to hosting sporting events and public meetings.

WorldCat lists A History of the Princess Theatre of Des Moines, Iowa, a 1949 Thesis/Dissertation by Raymond Scott Hill. The only copy the catalog lists is in the University of Iowa Library in Iowa City. Maybe someone who has access to the library will find this comment and examine the book to see if it says anything about the Princess ever having shown movies.

Photolibrarian on May 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Princess Theatre Elbert & Getchell Mgrs S C LF 620 Bal 353 Gal 238 Boxes 62 Theatre on ground floor 111 elec 115 DC Stage PO 34x32 ft F to BW 35 ft BSW 62 ft Apron 2 2 ft BF G 50 ft to RL 68 ft 18 DR House plays stock.

Source: The Cahn-Leighton Official Theatrical Guide,
v. 17, 1913

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 9, 2011 at 3:48 am

The September 11, 1909, issue of the trade journal Domestic Engineering ran an item about the plumbing, heating, and ventilation system of the new Princess Theatre, then under construction in Des Moines. The Princess Theatre was designed by the firm of Hallett & Rawson (George E. Hallett and Henry D. Rawson.) The item said that the roof of the building would be on by the middle of September, so construction was most likely completed before the end of 1909.

Hallett & Rawson was a leading Des Moines firm in the late 19th and early 20th century, but I’ve been unable to find any theaters other than the Princess attributed to them.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 20, 2008 at 9:28 am

Could the photo posted by ken mc on May 21, 2007 be the former Lyric Theater? The location given for the Lyric is Fifth Street and Maple Street in West Des Moines. The building in the photo (Theatrical Shop) has an address of 145 Fifth Street, West Des Moines which maps to Maple Street and Fifth Street.

kencmcintyre on November 9, 2007 at 5:55 pm

I went through the Princess theaters and former Princess Theaters, but no luck identifying this Iowa building. If anyone recognizes it, let me know:

Calmuse on September 26, 2007 at 2:24 pm

Definitely not the Princess. This small former theater at has been a costume shop for about 30 years, and it’s in West Des Moines, a suburb with a street and numbering system that duplicates many Des Moines addresses and confounds people unfamiliar with that area.

Here’s a link to a blog that includes info on the Princess, which was a live stage venue. The post about the Princess is titled “A Legitimate Question.”

The fifth-most-recent entry in that blog is a 1980s-vintage article published in 1996 (see the post “The Genuine Article.”) It describes some of the old cinemas—some of which were extravagant, especially for a small city like Des Moines.

Most of the blog’s photos have perms, but the Princess photo doesn’t appear to have any. The Princess was located on 4th Street in downtown Des Moines (not West Des Moines).

The Princess photo: View link

The Princess should be classified as closed/demolished.

kencmcintyre on May 21, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Perhaps the Princess? Any ideas?

kencmcintyre on January 23, 2007 at 1:22 pm

This article describes the sale of a Princess theater in 1915. The location is in southern Iowa, but as my Iowa geography is subpar perhaps someone else can weigh on where this theater may have been:

Princess Theatre Sold

C. F. Schnee becomes owner and manager of the Princess Theatre, one of the best equipped and most attractive movie playhouses in southern Iowa, next week. A.L. Barker, owner and manager of the theatre, closed a deal Monday for the sale of the equipment of the house. The building, which was erected by L. M. Stanton, is owned by S. Varga of Leon. Mr. Schnee has owned a number of movies and is an experienced theatrical man. He expects to keep the house up to the high standard maintained by Mr. Barker.

Mr. Barker and J.L. Taylor started the first picture theatre in the town about seven years ago, and since that time the former has been actively engaged in the business. He thoroughly understands every detail of the show business and is a very popular manager. He has a wide acquaintance with theatrical people, and the Princess has prospered under his able management. Mr. Barker has not definitely decided as to his future business plans but will likely locate in a large town. He has two or three propositions under consideration at the present time.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 6, 2006 at 8:57 am

Many famous actors performed at this theater, but they performed there live. Maybe at some point it switched to movies, but at least in the teens and twenties it was a live performance theater. I hope that this theater did show movies at some point and can remain listed on here because there is alot of history involved with it. Many actors got their start at this theater. Below are a few examples:

Conrad Nagel

“At 18 he was learning the acting business at Des Moines' Princess Theater for $5 a week, making extra money as a bricklayer and a hotel desk clerk. Then the New York stage beckoned”.

Fay Bainter

“Landing in Des Moines, she became the darling of audiences who flocked to see her at the Princess Theater. "They just seemed to take me to their hearts,” she said. She described her life as a “grind,” but loved it: seven nightly performances and four matinees every week. Bainter went on to great success on Broadway, and then hit Hollywood, making her first film in 1934 at age 41".

Ralph Bellamy

“Bellamy arrived in Des Moines in 1926 as a 22-year-old leading man at the old Princess Theater. During his second season, he formed his own company, calling it the Ralph Bellamy Players. Bellamy starred in Des Moines for three years”.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 6, 2006 at 4:03 am

Every reference that I find for a Princess theater in Des Moines, IA indicates that it was a live theater where mostly plays were performed. Is this theater listed in any FDYbooks?