Royal Theater

1721 Hill Avenue,
Spirit Lake, IA 51360

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50sSNIPES on October 20, 2023 at 7:14 am

The Royal Theatre opened in 1918 but closed for a short time in Spring 1931 following building reconstruction. The Royal Theatre then reopened its doors by manager Kenneth Parkinson of LeMars on May 30, 1931 with a one-day showing of Lowell Sherman in “Bachelor Apartment” along with an unnamed cartoon and a newsreel.

From World War II until July 1976, the Royal Theatre was operated by the March family led by Jack March, and was then taken over by Jay Kohl that same year. Throughout the late-1970s and early-1980s, the theater had multiple manager changes. First there’s Dave Anderson, and later Milford resident Walter Hanson on November 8, 1983 (who was also a certified auto mechanic and owns his own business in Arnolds Park, called the Iowa Great lakes Auto Repair).

The Royal Theatre closed for the final time on mid-January 1998 and the marquee was removed in October 1998.

Discus on April 19, 2018 at 9:02 pm

My name is Don Van Wyk. When Darrel Steen was manager at the Royal Theatre I worked at both the theatre and the drive in, as a projectionist. The land Wal Mart is on was the drive in. Time frame was approximately 1961 to 1968. The Royal theatre really never had very large crowds. Seems like just enough to keep it going. I worked at the Royal thru high school and then when in college only at the drive in in the summers. The drive in would draw some good crowds but then at last it to tapered off. March purchased or leased, l don’t know which, the theatre in Milford in 1967 to selling it I don’t know when. I managed the Milford theatre for approximately 9 months in 1967 to February 1968 when I was drafted. By managing it I did the tickets, concession, and projectionist. Don’t ever remember a crowd of over a dozen. I was paid fifty dollars a week. The pay included free rent living in a very old house situated by the road in front of the Milford drive in on Hwy 71. Coldest place I ever lived. Water pipes froze up all the time. Then Darrel would come over with a blow torch to unfreeze them. I know of more people and some history if one wishes to inquire.

Chris1982 on September 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Spirit Lake had a second Drive-In called the Superior 71, it opened in 1951 and is stil in operation.

wonas on July 8, 2013 at 2:56 am

I ran the Royal in the early 70s, as well as the Drive-In down the road (now a WalMart of course). Milford is another small tourist town close by, and they probably did have their own theater way back. The Royal was owned by March Bros Theaters at that time, out of Wayne, NE, and also LeMars, IA (my home town). A Darrel Steen ran the Spirit Lake Royal for many years before me. The owners wanted me to buy this one, but everything was really old and decrepit and held together with baling wire. Huge crowds in the summer (tourist season), NObody in the winter, It ended as a combo theater/VHS rental oulet, then who knows? As I said, the drive-in (overlooking a nice homey cemetery) became a WalMART parking lot at some point.

Chuck, wondering what your interest is/was with this theater, and do you know more?

LouisRugani on March 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Could the ROYAL have been known as the MILFORD in an earlier life?
From the Spirit Lake Beacon, November 30, 1939:

The foreclosure of a mechanics lien case of the J. F. Anderson
Lumber Co., vs. E. C. Arehart and the Spencer Investment Co., has occupied the attention of the district court this week. The case is one growing out of an outside Neon sign salesman contracted to construct the new canopy and sign for the Milford theatre and failed to complete his job or pay the bills, and after making collections along left unceremoniously. The case is still being heard as the Beacon goes to press.