Iowa Theatre

102 3rd Street SE,
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

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Jakorns on October 19, 2012 at 12:40 am

The Barton organ is now playing! There remains some work to do with wiring and some console components. Visit this website for more info on the Barton and the Wurlitzer at the Paramount.

rivest266 on July 21, 2012 at 1:31 am

Grand opening ad from June 29th, 1928 posted here

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm

There are two photos of the Iowa Theatre after its post-flood renovation on this page of the web site of Ryan Companies US, Inc., the construction firm that did the restoration and associated remodeling. The design of the project was by OPN Architects.

The book Cedar Rapids: Downtown and Beyond, by George T. Henry and Mark W. Hunter, says that the Iowa Theatre closed as a movie house in 1983.

Local banking house Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust is sponsoring a classic movie series at the Iowa Theatre (schedule here). TCR’s web site doesn’t say anything about the medium of presentation, but the bank’s web site says Movies are projected digitally in HD via a state of the art Blu-Ray projector whenever available in that format. Still, it’s only five bucks (the bank also gives away a limited number of tickets free) and you do get to see the movies in a classic theater.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 28, 2011 at 10:22 am

O.F.Paulson Co., currently listed in the Firm field, is a construction company. The Iowa Theatre was designed by George Fisher, an Omaha architect who was at one time partnered with Louis Mendelssohn and Harry Lawrie.

The August 11, 1928, issue of Motion Picture Times has an article about the Iowa Theatre, with three photos.

Jakorns on February 27, 2011 at 9:48 am

The replacement console for the organ is currently under construction and the solo chamber is being rebuilt.

Jakorns on March 14, 2010 at 5:14 am

Here is a video from FEMA who provided $4 million towards the renovation.

View link

Jakorns on March 14, 2010 at 5:09 am

Theatre Cedar Rapids reopened with Mel Brooks “The Producers” in February 2010. The original chandeliers that hung in front of the organ chambers were located in the warehouse of a local antique collector and were refurbished and donated to the theater. They are back in their original location.

The ticket lobby had the 1965 decoration removed and plaster work and lighting fixtures were restored to the 1928 appearance.

New restroom areas were added in the lower levels of the theater lobby (they had been sealed off in 1965 and were not reused in the 1983 remodeling).

The new color scheme of the theatre echos earlier colors used by the theater and is quite attractive. The ugly plastic reflector panels that were hung in front of the proscenium in 1983 were removed.

The stage floor was rebuilt with a new removable trap section. New mechanicals were added and a new lift for the organ console has been installed (ready for the return of the organ next year).

The theater lobby was expanded into the store fronts of the building and the theater now has the capability to host catered events. New rehearsal and dressing room space was aquired in the basement and upper levels of the building. It is quite an impressive reuse of the space and very functional.

Here is a link to the Cedar Rapids Gazette article about the reopening and some really nice pictures.

View link

spectrum on January 12, 2010 at 2:58 am

The CR-ATOS website has more updates on the organs. Consoles for both the Paramount and Theatre Cedar Rapids organs were damaged “beyond repair” and the soplor chamber of the Barton received heavy water damage. CR-ATOS and Cedar Rapids Barton inc. are working together on restoration and conservation the Barton at theatre Cedar Rapids, which will include a replica of the original console. The city of Cedar Rapids recently approved a restoration plan for the Paramount and in early 2010 planning efforts will begin for the restoration of the Paramount Wurlitzer and replication of the console.

The renovation of the Theatre Cedar Rapids and the Barton has already commenced, and is scheduled for completion by spring 2011.

Here is a photo of the partly submerged console of the Barton at the Theatre Cedar Rapids:

View link

Here is a photo of the toppled console of the Paramount Wurlitzer:
View link

A more detailed set of articles on the restoration progress of both theatres and organs with more photos and updates can be found at the main CR-atos page:

Jakorns on May 19, 2009 at 3:30 am

The building took substantial water on the main floor of the auditorium and lobby, and the basement of the entire building was flooded. All the electrical for the building was knocked out and the building is still empty. The renovation plans basically will move the electrical above the main floor and expand the lobby space into the storefronts on the main level

kencmcintyre on May 6, 2009 at 12:58 am

Here is a November 1961 ad from the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

kencmcintyre on November 8, 2008 at 1:29 am

Here is an excerpt from an 11/14/65 article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

The Iowa theater in Cedar Rapids will change ownership Dec. 1. It will also close that date for extensive remodeling and modernization and remain closed until Christmas day. The theater was acquired by Dubinsky Brothers Theaters from RKO Theaters several months ago, with Dec. 1 as the takeover date. The name of the theater will continue the Iowa, the RKO identification merely being dropped from it. Reopening feature at the Iowa: The new James Bond movie “Thunderball”, starring Sean Connery.

spectrum on October 19, 2008 at 3:58 am

Their official website doesn’t mention anything (that I can find) about the status of the theatre building itself. Their box office at the building is open but all of their events for the 2008-09 season are at other temporary venues.

Ironically they had just began a new capital season about a year ago to raise several million dollars to do a range of infrastructure improvements.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 29, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Every time a theater gets flooded out, that’s all we hear about here in CT is the organ. What about the rest of the building? Flood water does tremendous and expensive damage to a structure.

spectrum on September 28, 2008 at 7:17 pm

According to CRATOS, organ consoles at the Theatre Cedar Rapids are the Paramount were both flooded, particularly the one at the Paramount, which was toppled over and tossed around by 8+ feet of water. The console at the Theatre Cedar Rapids was hit by 4 feet of water but remained standing. Both organ consoles have been removed to a restoration site by the CRATOS, and will be restored.

Faustalicious on June 20, 2008 at 7:23 pm

CRATOS (The Cedar Rapids Area Theatre Organ Society) is providing updates on the situation with the organs (Paramount and Iowa Theatres) on or website:

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 14, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Anyone know how this theatre has fared in the terrible flooding of downtown Cedar Rapids? I visited the Iowa with a Theatre Historical Society group around 1985/6. It had been converted into a live house, and I seem to recall that they had remounted the famous ear-of-corn vertical blade sign outside.

Jakorns on March 30, 2008 at 6:48 am

The Barton theater organ was built for Barton by the Wangerin company of Oshkosh WI, because Barton had outsold their production capacity . It was the largest of the Wangerin built Bartons.

Jakorns on January 16, 2006 at 3:19 am

The building is not in bad shape, just a different configuration.
The big reasons for chopping the theatre were; 1. Plays need a more intimate space than a huge auditorium. 2. Royalties for plays and musicals are based on the number of seats available, not tickets sold. (Therefore you can hold 3 sell out shows in a 500 seat theatre or one non sell out show in a 1500 seat auditorium)

In reality the theatre was not a typical “palace”. Its' design was more reminiscent of the Orpheum vaudeville houses of the late teens and early 20s. There was little in the way of lounges and foyers for handling the crowds. Basically it was a straight shot from the ticket lobby to the hallway behind the auditorium (it even had windows at the back of the main floor that were opened to the hallway). This was somewhat of a budget theatre that relied more on a gaudy paint job than fancy plaster. The promoter behind the theatre rushed to get it built before the Capitol (Paramount) opened and would out opulence all the other theatres in town.

If the community theatre had not bought the building it would be a parking lot now.

Tim87529 on October 20, 2005 at 11:07 pm

I remember driving by this theatre many times on the way to church. I always wondered if the building was abandoned. It’s a shame it’s in such bad shape; hopefully someday it can regain its former glory.

Jakorns on May 24, 2004 at 5:11 am

The original seating capacity was 1800. In 1967 the theatre was remodeled by Central States Cinemas. The original, narrow seats on the main floor were replaced by wider, modern seats. This reduced seating to about 1500. The chandeliers over the opera boxes were removed at this time, as was the vertical blade ear of corn sign.

I have photos of the theatre, then and now, on my web site.

William on December 5, 2003 at 5:46 pm

When the RKO’s Iowa Theatre was a movie theatre it seated 1832 people.