Ioka Theater

55 Water Street,
Exeter, NH 03833

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Showing 1 - 25 of 34 comments

DavidZornig on May 11, 2015 at 9:22 pm

Mid `30’s photo added courtesy of Walter Bell.

2014 article below courtesy of Patricia Lane Evans. Copy and paste to view.

TrevorBartlett on April 5, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Here’s a link to a video from a rally to save the IOKA theater held on March 30, 2013.

MPol on March 18, 2012 at 4:03 am

I may not live in the area, but I do hope that the Ioka Theatre can be re-opened and saved as a movie theatre. I live roughly an hour or two south of Exeter, NH, and, as a moviegoer, it sounds like a great idea. I wish the townspeople the best of luck and victory in their fight to save the Ioka.

exetertheater on December 3, 2011 at 11:15 am

the theater will be a theater again – sign up at for future news

John on November 29, 2011 at 7:03 am

The IOKA will be auctioned on Thursday!

wellrj on December 16, 2009 at 10:10 pm

How sad is this. What a beautiful theatre. Someone’s gotta bring this one back. If one of the most prestigious/wealthiest boarding schools in the world being in town can’t keep this one aflot. WTF..

cwa on June 4, 2009 at 6:25 pm

The IOKA is in the process of being purchased. For more information go to

rdetzler on April 6, 2009 at 3:21 pm

The IOKA is closed. Anyone interested in theater seats, curtains, lighting, and other related equipment may contact us through the website.

longislandmovies on January 14, 2009 at 7:50 pm

The price may not be crazy for the building.Going to be run as a theater it is a crazy price.The price may be well worth itbut it is not priced so so some one can run it as a theater.If it was it would still be open.

miracle on January 8, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Unfortunately the price is the reason.. logic would prevail that at sale price over 10 times the net profits, that the operation was too glamourous for its own good. The investment put in by the owner is not relevant to a purchaser, profits are…

It is sad to hear of this, I ‘ like the theatre very much.

rdetzler on December 15, 2008 at 10:24 am

The crazy asking price isn’t so crazy. However, it is one reason why so many older theaters close. Real estate appreciates, typically much faster than ticket prices. The IOKA is located in Exeter, NH not Bumblescum Kansas. Exeter is a beautiful, New England town, in the most populous region of the State, the IOKA is directly across the street from one of the most prestigious prep schools in the Country. It is one of the largest commercial buildings in town and is in excellent physical condition. The price is also not just for the building but at 995,000 includes everything related to the operation. This operation extends well beyond movies. Just the audio systems alone which include two professional PA’s as well as video production and lighting cost over $150,000. Not too mention two digital projection sytems, and tens of thousands of dollars of furnishings. To think of the IOKA as simply a ‘movie theater’ is to discredit what this operation has been and could be. The price also includes all furnishings, inventory, intellectual properties, trademarks, and the liquor license.

cwa on December 13, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Interested in a community-owned or community-run Ioka Theater?
Suggestions for best practices? Program ideas? Volunteer or business support?
Let us know!
Check out the Ioka on (groups) and

longislandmovies on December 1, 2008 at 8:10 am

The crazy asking price is why this theater never sold.It has been for sale for years ..1 million dollars……now 980,000

DavidZornig on November 28, 2008 at 9:10 am

Wow, what a saga. I’m all for any added safety improvements. But for the city government to mandate something so costly, without a plan to help pay for it on a place that should be grandfathered in anyway, is shameful.

My guess is that the city silently was also against the concert venue idea as well. The Coronet Theatre in Evanston Illinois suffered a similar fate over that. An initial liquor license stipulated that it could only be served in the lobby, not the auditorium. Spotters were dispatched to witness any “rule breaking”.

It eventually became such a headache to continue to build a business that was ironically a potential boon to the area, that they just threw in the towel. It was torn down and became condos & retail space.
My thoughts and hopes are with the Ioka.
Hope your film turns out well. Be sure to include the former pool area.

P.S. The Chrysler pictured is a 1956.
Chrysler designer Virgil Exner’s first year with a tail fin. Which would go crazy the following year.

theauteur on November 27, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Roger has allowed me to shoot some film inside the theater before it closes.

I am using it for my BFA thesis film which i planned to make about the struggling independent theater. Since the news of its closing as came sooner than i thought, the film has changed into an exploration of this closing theater in its last days. (i really hope it does not close for good)

The idea of making a film as a piece of art for the ioka is my way of remembering the theater through film, for which this theater was built to show.

theauteur on November 27, 2008 at 9:09 pm

5thly, also running movies, doesn’t make that much money for the theater.

i wish these societal influences didn’t exist, because i wish for the theater to maintain as a movie theater, a independent movie theater, and i would love for this theater to become popular again, because i love rushing around, asking people what they want, and getting them there popcorm, etc.

i hope also that the state recognizes this theaters need, and helps pump some money into restorations, not only to meet fire code requirements which they themselves put in place, but also so that the marquee which hasn’t lit up the word ioka in sometime, may do so in the future.

theauteur on November 27, 2008 at 9:05 pm

There are many societal influences that are going against the ioka theater, and in return making it hard for the theater to continue.

1stly, the theater is an indepedent company, not a non profit, or a corporation, which our capitalistic society sides with.

2ndly, it is a small town entity, therefore it relies on its towns patrons for it to make money.

3rdly, the economy is just bad.

4rthly, the state and town put so many restrictions on a venue like this, which acts against it, rather than for it, and in return costing more money, than money earned.

gouin on November 22, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I just heard that the IOKA theatre is closing it’s doors on Christmas eve. After 93 years, is Exeter going to lose the centerpiece of local culture? After talking with owner Roger Detzler about the reality of trying to continue operating with a necessary upgrade of a sprinkler system (remember The Station nightclub in Rhode Island?), it is simply not cost effective to do so. The root of the problem is lack of local support.
While Portsmouth celebrates and generously supports it’s own Music Hall, and Rochester does the same with The Opera House, the people of Exeter blatantly ignore the historic gem right here in downtown. Will we be saying 7 years from now, boy, I sure do miss the IOKA theatre, it would have been 100 this year.
Why is there no local support? Everyone seems to care about the bandstand like it’s some great architectural marvel. Then there’s Swasey parkway and the pavilion there. Realistically, both are only usable 4 months a year, weather permitting. The IOKA is a year round venue.
I’ve seen Roger try everything to generate local interest in the IOKA, offering a huge variety of entertainment, unique films and events. Does anyone remember the pride we all felt when Exeter’s own Dan Brown held the premiere of The DaVinci Code at the IOKA? Or remember standing in line all the way around the corner to the string bridge to see Stoogefest? Or the sight of hundreds of Gothic teens descending on downtown Exeter to see the Dresden Dolls? Since the days of vaudeville, the IOKA has been part of the fabric of Exeter, the very identity of the downtown. With it’s iconic marquee and genuine Hollywood heritage, this is the cultural centerpiece of this community and it is closing next month, yet no one seems to care. For less than a million dollars, the town could purchase the historic theatre and revitalize the downtown area, and along with it, draw visitors from neighboring communities and bring customers to other downtown businesses. Other than the sprinkler system,the theatre already has had major improvements in recent years including a new sound system, new seats and a fresh coat of paint inside. Are we going to let the IOKA disappear forever or has the time come to act now and save it before it’s gone forever? The choice is yours Exeter. And time is running out.

Richard Gouin

the6thtoe on November 20, 2008 at 9:01 am

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Text Size: A | A | A Print this Article Email this Article IOKA Theater to close
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The Ioka Theater in Exeter will close Dec. 24, 2008.
Rich Beauchesne file photo
By Jennifer Feals

November 18, 2008 10:51 AM
EXETER â€" The Ioka Theater, one of New Englandâ€\s oldest independently owned, privately operated theaters, will close its doors this winter after 93 years in operation.

Co-owner and President Roger Detzler announced Tuesday, Nov. 18, that the theater will close on Dec. 24, due to several contributing factors, including the need for a sprinkler system, increased utility and insurance costs and an overall “hostile” business environment.

Curtain call
Fans will have one last chance to see a film at the Ioka as “The Nutcracker” featuring the Kirov Ballet will run at the theater throughout December. The last presentation will be Christmas Eve at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at or at the box office.
The Ioka is a staple in the Exeter community that has been located on Water Street since 1915. The theater opened on Nov. 1 of that year with the epic “The Birth of a Nation,” directed by D.W. Griffith, and has pleased audiences since with a variety of films, musical concerts and comedic acts.

Detzler cites the cost of installing a sprinkler system at the theater, which is a requirement following the Rhode Island Station Fire in 2003, as the primary reason for the closure. While it is in the interest of public safety, Detzler said this legislation has the unintended side effect of closing many historic businesses since the state has failed to provide funding to protect such operations.

Town Manager Russell Dean said town officials have had contact with Detzler about the new fire code and expressed the responsibility of the Ioka to follow the regulations for the safety of its patrons.

“Itâ€\s not anything we can turn away from,” Dean said. “We have a responsibility to make sure these regulations are followed and that businesses comply.”

Efforts to create a non-profit entity to maintain the theater have also failed. Detzler said there are many challenges to such a transition. “It requires a substantial amount of capital and would require a very different business model,” he said.

Detzler said the venue is currently for sale and he hopes to find a buyer with the financial ability and vision to maintain the current operation. However, time is running out, he said, and if no one steps forward before the closing date, the building will be sold for development.

This isnâ€\t the first time the building has closed, said Barbara Rimkunas, Exeter resident and curator of the Exeter Historical Society. With each threat of closing, she said, the Ioka has managed to come back. “Iâ€\m going to hold out hope that someone will bring it back,” she said. “I really donâ€\t think it will be vacant long, thatâ€\s the optimism I have.”

Though a handful of small town theaters still survive throughout New England, the Ioka was unique due to its age, its original architecture, and its lifelong dedication to both cinema and the performing arts. The Ioka represents the beginning of film in America, pre-dates the “movie palaces” of the Art Deco era, and was built for silent film and vaudeville, Detzler said.

“The Ioka is not a museum; it is living history, a place that everyone comes to and everyone has a story about,” he said. “Time and time again we have people tell us that their first kiss was in the balcony and that they can remember what movie was playing.”

Famous artists have crossed the stage including Fatty Arbuckle, Warren Zevon, Stephen Wright and many other comics and musicians. The Ioka was a draw for locals and tourists alike. The closure of the Ioka will be a loss to all of downtown Exeter, not just historically, Detzler said, but commercially as well.

The response to the Ioka closing was one of surprise Tuesday from community members.

“Oh no!” said Rimkunas.

Rimkunas said she lived in town probably just four days before walking to the Ioka to catch the release of the “Wizard of Oz.”

“It was wonderful to see that on the big screen,” she said, adding that green lights were on display to showcase the Emerald City. “Itâ€\s a beautiful place to see a film. I will miss it horribly.”

“I think itâ€\s a sad thing,” said Dean. “Itâ€\s a real loss for the community. That building has been a part of the townâ€\s fabric for many years.”

For Dean, who grew up in Stratham, memories of the Ioka are fond. “It was a great place to go … I remember going there as a kid, around the seventh or eighth grade. It was a cool place to go. I vividly remember standing outside with friends and waiting for parents to pick us up,” he said. “I know there will be friends of mine sad to see it closing.”

ERD on November 8, 2008 at 9:23 pm

I am glad to know the IOKA still is around. It sounds like Roger Detzler and the staff are very dedicated. This pleasant theatre has a long history.

theauteur on October 24, 2008 at 8:54 am

View link

a clip i found while at work behind the concessions counter at the ioka

rdetzler on October 29, 2007 at 9:11 pm

Happy 92 IOKA! 1915-2007, Birth of a Nation – Bee Movie, provided we survive the gas prices and fire safety improvements of this winter we will see everyone in 2008