Clarinda Theatre

701 E. Washington Street,
Clarinda, IA 51632

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Clarinda Theatre

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The $35,000 Armory Theatre in Clarinda was a hub for live entertainment, films in the silent and soul era, and events ranging from patriotic speeches to funeral services. The vaudeville route was just a stop away from St. Joe on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad allowing for good quality acts. But films became the main draw. The theatre got a $13,000 facelift in 1913 to better accommodate film presentations, It converted to sound to stay relevant. It was still open in 1936.

In 1937 it was renamed Clarinda Theatre. It was destroyed in an arson attack caused by a 17 years old boy in July 1971.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

dsedman on February 11, 2017 at 6:25 am

Bluechel and Lannan purchased the Armory and Rialto in 1929 equipping the Armory with Vitaphone disc-based sound. After its theatrical life, it became known as the Glenn Miller Armory as Clarinda was his birthplace.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 11, 2017 at 11:10 am

The Armory Opera House at Clarinda is listed in the 1914 edition of the Iowa State Gazetteer and Business Directory. It isn’t listed in the 1909-1910 Cahn guide, so might not have opened yet at that time, but the house is listed in the 1913-1914 Cahn guide as a ground floor theater with 800 seats on the main floor, 400 seats in the balcony, and a gallery seating 200. The proscenium opening was 32x25 feet, the stage 55 feet between side walls and 33 feet to back wall, with an apron 3 feet deep.

dallasmovietheaters on February 11, 2017 at 1:41 pm

The National Guard Armory was built in 1908 with the Armory Theatre opening there in 1910. Herman Fields took on the theatre from Bluechel and Lannan in 1930 and changed to Ultraphone sound equipment reopening on October 1, 1936 as the Clarinda Theatre.

On Glenn Miller Day, January 13, 1954, the Clarinda had its biggest day welcoming Jimmy Stewart and his wife for the showing of “The Glenn Miller Story.” On July 18, 1954, the Clarinda introduced widescreen CinemaScope projection with “The Robe.”

With the evening showing of “Support Your Local Gunfighter” less than an hour away, the theatre was torched by a 17-year old decimating the theatre and leading to its demolition.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 11, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Further digging has revealed that the Armory building was begun in late 1909 or early 1910. The October 21, 1909, issue of Engineering News had this item soliciting bids for the project:

“Clarinda, Ia.— Until 1 p. m., Oct. 5, by William Orr, Secretary the Building Committee of the armory of the fifty-fifth Infantry Band, Clarinda, for the construction of a two-story brick armory, 58x135 feet, in Clarinda, Iowa, in accordance with the plans and specifications prepared by W.W. Welch. architect, Clarinda”
This early photo shows that the Armory Theatre was located at the edge of Clarinda’s business district, not a residential neighborhood. The armory at 701 W. Washington Street was dedicated in January, 1954, according to an article in the January 9, 2014, issue of the Clarinda Herald-Journal.

I suspect that the shell of the armory survived the 1912 fire, and the addition of movies to the program after it was rebuilt reflected the need to cover the cost of the rebuilding of the interior. The house was originally built as a rehearsal and performance space for the 55th Infantry Band, which had been coaxed into coming to Clarinda by the promise of such a facility.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 11, 2017 at 1:53 pm

An article about the fire in the July 26, 1971, issue of Boxoffice said that the operators of the Clarinda already had a new theater under construction on Washington Street and planned to close the old house and move the Clarinda’s projection equipment to the new house at the end of the month. The manager said that the loss of the projectors would probably delay the opening of the new theater.

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