Iowa Theatre

121 N. 1st Street,
Winterset, IA 50273

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Iowa Theatre Winterset Screen

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Iowa Theatre was opened as a vaudeville theatre in 1900. It later screened silent films and by 1931 was showing ‘talkies’. It was closed May 27, 2015.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

StanMalone on November 21, 2006 at 4:41 am

I first visited this theatre in 1999 while on a visit to Winterset to see the Madison County covered bridges and the John Wayne Museum and birthplace. It is located on the east side of the town square. At the time they were playing two separate shows, a family movie at 7PM and an adult (as in Adam Sandler type adult, not XXX) feature at 9PM. Winterset is only 35 miles from Des Moines so the turnover in features here is pretty quick in order to keep the local customers from traveling to Des Moines if what they want to see is not currently playing at the local theatre.

The manager / owner was working the box office, but he was nice enough to let me in to look the place over and talk about the difficulties in running a one screen small town theatre in close proximity to a large city. Print availability on national release date and preview availability were two issues he mentioned. These seem to be problems common to most theatres is this type of setting.

The theatre itself is old and occupies a narrow storefront on the square. Like most cold weather businesses it has a double lobby. Once you enter the street doors you come to the box office. From there you go through another set of doors into the main lobby, which in this case is taken up mostly by the snack bar. The interior of the auditorium is 1950’s art deco style with two off center aisles. The outside frontage had been covered with wood siding, but the owner said that removing it and restoring the exterior to its original state was his next priority. From the look of the two pictures posted on this site it seems that he has not gotten around to it yet.

In 2005 I noticed on another theatre website that this location was listed as closed. I called the Chamber of Commerce and the lady there said that it was open and had not closed at any time during the past 6 years.

Gayle4U on December 29, 2013 at 9:16 am

PLEASE SAVE THE IOWA THEATER IN WINTERSET, IOWA! Find them on Facebook at Save the Iowa Theater. They have to go digital or close the doors…please donate to save this wonderful theater.

Chris1982 on September 14, 2014 at 1:36 am

It would be a real shame if the town of Winterset could not support its own Iowa Theatre. After all it is the county seat for Madison County of Bridges of Madison County fame; plus the birthplace of John Wayne is just a few blocks away. Although the theater usually presents only one film a week, it does host continuous showings of The Duke’s films during the annual John Wayne Birthday Celebration which takes place in May.

Chris1982 on December 10, 2014 at 9:32 pm

The first listing I found on the Iowa Theatre was in 1931. Prior to that movies were shown in the High School Auditorium.

Cakeight on February 15, 2015 at 12:27 am

Here are some recent photos:

WayneD8 on June 2, 2015 at 9:59 pm

The Iowa Theatre is now closed (June 2, 2015). It was closed by the owners on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. The Theatre is now for sale.

The Iowa Theatre struggled in a community of 5,000 and found it difficult to compete with numerous multiplex theatre operations located about a half hour away in Des Moines, even though their ticket and concession prices were generally half as much as in Des Moines.

A committee was formed in May of 2013 to help raise awareness and build sufficient business to justify converting to a digital projection system at a cost of $41,000, as the studios would stop distributing movies on 35mm film at the end of that year. Despite substantial efforts, business remained spotty and the Theatre was unable to convert.

They continued on by showing recently-released DVDs once a week at 7pm on Saturday until the owners (out-of-state relatives of the theatre operator) closed the theatre and put it up for sale.

Hopefully new owners will be found who can invest in restoring this wonderful theatre and return it once again to showing first-run films.

The website is presently inactive, but may return if the theatre reopens.

DavidZornig on July 29, 2015 at 8:05 am

For sale now. Copy & paste to view.

WayneD8 on August 1, 2015 at 8:56 pm

The Iowa Theatre is being purchased by a local person who has the wherewithal AND the intention to “restore, renovate, and update the facility” and to transform it “into a multi-use space that can not only screen movies digitally and in 35mm, but also become a location where educational, musical, and other programs can be offered.” Great news for this gem!

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