Historic Ioka Theater to close Christmas Eve

posted by danpetitpas on December 1, 2008 at 10:41 am

EXETER, NH — The historic Ioka Theater, which has operated since 1915 when it showed “Birth of a Nation,” will close its doors on Dec. 24th. The main reason is the high cost of installing a sprinkler system, with high energy costs and insurance costs as contributing factors.

The theater has 500 seats in the main auditorium with a smaller second screen in the basement which formerly served as the area’s YMCA.

The need for a sprinkler system came about because of the disasterous Station nightclub fire several years ago in Rhode Island. Many New England states have enacted laws requiring sprinkler systems in entertainment venues of more than 100 patrons. This is forcing many marginal bars and restaurants to close. Sprinkler systems can cost anywhere between $40,000 for a small space to over $200,000 for a large space.

Read more here and here in Seacoast Online.

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Comments (8)

gabedellafave on December 1, 2008 at 7:20 pm

This is a d—ned shame. I was in Exeter a few years ago, and the IOKA was one of the highlights of that charming small town.

markp on December 1, 2008 at 11:00 pm

I can understand the need to protect people, I’m all for it. But the Station Club was a unique and unfortunate incident. With a theatre, unless a major renovation takes place, such venues are grandfathered so as to not get hit with such an expense.

MPol on December 2, 2008 at 2:11 pm

The IOKA looks like a beautiful little theatre, both inside and out. As a movie buff who resides an hour or two south of the MA/NH border, it’s sad to read/hear of yet another movie venue closing. Abiding by the safety code rules, however, really is of utmost importance, though, whether it be a theatre or a nightclub.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 2, 2008 at 4:02 pm

British laws do not require sprinkler systems as they see it as a property saver and not a life saver. How many lives has a sprinkler system ever saved?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 2, 2008 at 6:16 pm

That’s really sad. Is there any way they could apply for an exemption from the sprinkler law?

MPol on December 2, 2008 at 11:48 pm

But AlAlvarez, this is the United States and not Britain. Whether people care to believe it or not, sprinklers can be and often enough are a lifesaver, as well as a property saver.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 3, 2008 at 10:51 am

U.S. states where the sprinkler companies haven’t lobbied do not have such laws either. I can’t think of a single case where they saved anyone in a theatre. If they passed out from smoke inhalation, they would probably drown.

LaurieA on December 3, 2008 at 11:05 am

I worked at the Ioka in 1991 as a teenager and it was a wonderful experience, lots of funny stories and memories. The Ioka isn’t just a theater, it is the heart of the Exeter downtown. The historic Portsmouth Music Hall, a few miles away, was able to preserve itself from the wrecking ball in 1988 by becoming a non-profit. My son and I hope that the Ioka owner will do the same. We can’t be complacent here and assume the theater will magically keep itself open. The reality is that if the sprinkler system isn’t installed or exempted, the Ioka can’t be in business. If we want to see that marquee lit up, the town and surrounding communities need to come together and fight for it. I don’t see it as a business, I see it as a member of the community, a historical landmark. The other issue is that people say they love the Ioka, but then drive to Newington to the Regal Cinema 15 to see the same movie at double the cost and almost triple the pop corn cost. I don’t see why anyone would prefer a giant, impersonal cinema to the experience of the majestic Ioka. Let’s put our heads together and try to save the Ioka! You can contact my son Brycen and me at childadvocacy at hotmail dot com

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