Unique Theatre

614 Locust Street,
Des Moines, IA 50309

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Nickeldom Theater...Des Moines Iowa

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Originally the Bijou Theatre, it was renamed Nickeldom Theatre in 1906. It was operated by Gretchel & Elbert. It was renamed Unique Theatre in 1908. The building was demolished around 1920 to build the Strand Theatre on the site, which opened in February 1921.

Contributed by Billy Holcomb / Don Lewis / Billy Smith

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dallasmovietheaters
dallasmovietheaters on February 23, 2016 at 8:50 am

Over at the former Moore’s Opera House turned Wonderland Musée turned Wonderland Theatre turned Bijou, its final operator — Fred Buchanan worked in “Kinidrome” short films with vaudeville. He had already done this successfully at Ingersoll Park in his Ingersoll theatre. It was the Bijou and Ingersoll where Iowans saw their first motion pictures. When “The Great Train Robbery” became the most requested act on the vaudeville card, Buchanan knew he had a winner.

When the Bijou Theatre moved to this new location at 612 Locust Street, the Kinidrome was permanently installed and the theatre advertised the film being played by title – a first for the medium in Des Moines.

The Bijou Theatre was set to become the Nickelama to move exclusively to motion pictures in 1906. That name became the Nickeldom in 1906 exclusively playing motion pictures and the rest was moving picture history. Thomas A. Brown who was running motion pictures in Cedar Rapids came in to run the Nickeldom and by all accounts it was a huge hit raising prices to a dime.

Possibly due both to a confusing name (Nickeldom – movies costing a dime) and to ownership change , the theatre changed names to the Unique in 1908. And the Unique also did well early on. But as new, more vibrant theaters competed effectively against the Unique and existing larger theaters switched to heavier mixes of motion pictures, the Unique struggled and ultimately returned to nickel pricing. Abraham H. Blank bought the foundering theatre in 1920 razing it to place the Strand multipurpose building containing the new Strand Theatre in its spot.

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