State Theatre

123 E. Washington Avenue,
Washington, IA 52353

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Fridley Theatres -- State Theatre

Additional Info

Operated by: Fridley Theatres

Functions: Movies (First Run)

Previous Names: Graham Opera House

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 319.653.4023

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News About This Theater

State Theatre

The Graham Opera House was opened on May 14, 1897 with 783 seats. It was renamed State Theatre in 1931. It was closed due to fire damage on November 17, 2010. It reopened in 2014.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

kencmcintyre on August 30, 2007 at 2:57 am

The State was operated by Iowa United Theaters of Des Moines in the early sixties. United also operated the Waco Drive-In in Washington, IA, along with numerous other Iowa theaters.

LonPeterson on November 18, 2010 at 3:22 pm

The State Theatre was damaged in a fire on Wednesday November 17,2010. Fire officials said a discarded cigarette in a trash can in the third floor projection booth was the cause. The theatre suffered heavy damage to the booth an considerable smoke and water damage to the rest of the structure. No word yet on a rebuilding plan.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 29, 2010 at 8:47 pm

On the CT news page, in the news about the recent fire, it says that the State was originally the Grand Opera House from 1897. Under Washington Iowa in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide, there is a “Graham Opera House” – is it this theater? It says that the Graham was on the ground floor, had 783 seats, and ticket prices from 25 cents to $1. The proscenium opening was 32 feet wide X 29 feet high, and the stage was 38 feet deep. There were 6 musicians in the house orchestra. There were 3 newspapers in town and 4 hotels for show folks. The 1897 population of Washington was 5,000.

CSWalczak on November 29, 2010 at 9:44 pm

According to this Washington, IA Chamber of Commerce webpage, the State was born as the Graham Opera House.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Prior to the construction of the Graham Opera House, Washington was served by the Everson Opera House, a second-floor theater that was later converted to other uses. A 1909 book, “History of Washington County, Iowa” by Howard A. Burrell (Google Books fullview), has a photo of the Everson and drawing of the Graham, both probably from the late 19th century.

Here is an article from the Washington Evening News giving some historical background on the State Theatre. It’s dated November 18, 2010, and being a newspaper article it might not remain available on the Internet for very long.

The article says that the building was erected in 1893 to replace the first Graham Opera House (located at the opposite end of the same block) which had opened in 1886 and was destroyed by fire in 1892. Movies were exhibited in the Graham Opera House as early as 1897, but it was not renamed the State Theatre until 1931, at which time it became exclusively a movie house.

Judging from the photos of the State linked in earlier comments, the current facade probably doesn’t date from the 1931 remodeling and conversion of the opera house into a movie theater. That flat, plain style indicates a later remodeling project, probably from the 1940s or 1950s. The brick on the ground floor looks like it might even date from the 1970s.

Washington had at least one regular movie house in 1919, when an ad for the Motiograph company ran in the November 8 issue of Motion Picture News. It featured a letter from a “Mr. C.A. Pratt of the Electric Theatre Co., Washington, Iowa; Fox Theatre, Washington, Iowa and Pratt’s Theatre, Winfield, Iowa….”

Chris1982 on December 11, 2014 at 7:40 am

The State Theatre is open showing first run attractions, all digital with 2D && 3D capabilities.

davidcoppock on November 8, 2016 at 8:07 am

I think this theatre has been classied the world’s oldest operating movie theatre by the Guinness Book of Records?

David_Schneider on February 10, 2019 at 11:48 pm

The State is in the documentary film “Saving Brinton”, about a local citizen, Michael Zahs, and his collection of films and items from the 1890’s to 1910’s created by filmmaker-exhibitor/showman/inventor and Washington resident W. Frank Brinton, who began showing films at the State in 1897 and then toured, introducing film to other parts of the mid-west.

In the documentary some of the rare films, from classic filmmaker Melies and others, are restored and screened for the first time in over 100 years at venues starting with the State.

During that event a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records presents a certificate to the State naming it the “oldest continuously operating cinema theatre in the world”, as per davidcoppock’s comment above. (If it really was closed due to a fire in 2010 as mentioned in the description on this page, does that mean it wasn’t continuously operating?)

Also the marquee is shown being put in place in time for that evening. (I don’t know if it’s new at that point or was just spruced up.)

Click here for an interesting article about all of this and its historical context on

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