Ioka Theater

55 Water Street,
Exeter, NH 03833

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Showing 1 - 25 of 39 comments

DavidZornig on January 6, 2021 at 10:38 am

Marquee update.

DavidZornig on November 3, 2020 at 8:39 am

Marquee looking for a new home…

TJinSF on August 2, 2020 at 11:03 pm

My impression was that the anticipated restoration cost was perhaps inflated in order to give the developer another reason not to have to compromise the views from the potentially affected units. That seems to me to be the real rub here.

DavidZornig on July 27, 2020 at 3:18 pm

They need to get a second opinion, because that does not look like a $200K+ marquee restoration task. It is basically just a light box with can lights on the underside. If it wasn’t still structurally sound, it would likely have supports beneath it. They should confirm whether the plastic panels can be replaced by LED panels. That would likely be the most expensive element. The rest is just labor to sand, repaint and update the underside fixtures.

TJinSF on July 27, 2020 at 2:34 pm

A report about the proposed redevelopment of the building and a dispute over whether the marquee will stay or go.

DavidZornig on May 11, 2015 at 9:22 pm

Mid `30’s photo added courtesy of Walter Bell.

2014 article below courtesy of Patricia Lane Evans. Copy and paste to view.

TrevorBartlett on April 5, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Here’s a link to a video from a rally to save the IOKA theater held on March 30, 2013.

MPol on March 18, 2012 at 4:03 am

I may not live in the area, but I do hope that the Ioka Theatre can be re-opened and saved as a movie theatre. I live roughly an hour or two south of Exeter, NH, and, as a moviegoer, it sounds like a great idea. I wish the townspeople the best of luck and victory in their fight to save the Ioka.

exetertheater on December 3, 2011 at 11:15 am

the theater will be a theater again – sign up at for future news

John on November 29, 2011 at 7:03 am

The IOKA will be auctioned on Thursday!

wellrj on December 16, 2009 at 10:10 pm

How sad is this. What a beautiful theatre. Someone’s gotta bring this one back. If one of the most prestigious/wealthiest boarding schools in the world being in town can’t keep this one aflot. WTF..

cwa on June 4, 2009 at 6:25 pm

The IOKA is in the process of being purchased. For more information go to

rdetzler on April 6, 2009 at 3:21 pm

The IOKA is closed. Anyone interested in theater seats, curtains, lighting, and other related equipment may contact us through the website.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on January 14, 2009 at 7:50 pm

The price may not be crazy for the building.Going to be run as a theater it is a crazy price.The price may be well worth itbut it is not priced so so some one can run it as a theater.If it was it would still be open.

miracle on January 8, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Unfortunately the price is the reason.. logic would prevail that at sale price over 10 times the net profits, that the operation was too glamourous for its own good. The investment put in by the owner is not relevant to a purchaser, profits are…

It is sad to hear of this, I ‘ like the theatre very much.

rdetzler on December 15, 2008 at 10:24 am

The crazy asking price isn’t so crazy. However, it is one reason why so many older theaters close. Real estate appreciates, typically much faster than ticket prices. The IOKA is located in Exeter, NH not Bumblescum Kansas. Exeter is a beautiful, New England town, in the most populous region of the State, the IOKA is directly across the street from one of the most prestigious prep schools in the Country. It is one of the largest commercial buildings in town and is in excellent physical condition. The price is also not just for the building but at 995,000 includes everything related to the operation. This operation extends well beyond movies. Just the audio systems alone which include two professional PA’s as well as video production and lighting cost over $150,000. Not too mention two digital projection sytems, and tens of thousands of dollars of furnishings. To think of the IOKA as simply a ‘movie theater’ is to discredit what this operation has been and could be. The price also includes all furnishings, inventory, intellectual properties, trademarks, and the liquor license.

cwa on December 13, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Interested in a community-owned or community-run Ioka Theater?
Suggestions for best practices? Program ideas? Volunteer or business support?
Let us know!
Check out the Ioka on (groups) and

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on December 1, 2008 at 8:10 am

The crazy asking price is why this theater never sold.It has been for sale for years ..1 million dollars……now 980,000

DavidZornig on November 28, 2008 at 9:10 am

Wow, what a saga. I’m all for any added safety improvements. But for the city government to mandate something so costly, without a plan to help pay for it on a place that should be grandfathered in anyway, is shameful.

My guess is that the city silently was also against the concert venue idea as well. The Coronet Theatre in Evanston Illinois suffered a similar fate over that. An initial liquor license stipulated that it could only be served in the lobby, not the auditorium. Spotters were dispatched to witness any “rule breaking”.

It eventually became such a headache to continue to build a business that was ironically a potential boon to the area, that they just threw in the towel. It was torn down and became condos & retail space.
My thoughts and hopes are with the Ioka.
Hope your film turns out well. Be sure to include the former pool area.

P.S. The Chrysler pictured is a 1956.
Chrysler designer Virgil Exner’s first year with a tail fin. Which would go crazy the following year.

theauteur on November 27, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Roger has allowed me to shoot some film inside the theater before it closes.

I am using it for my BFA thesis film which i planned to make about the struggling independent theater. Since the news of its closing as came sooner than i thought, the film has changed into an exploration of this closing theater in its last days. (i really hope it does not close for good)

The idea of making a film as a piece of art for the ioka is my way of remembering the theater through film, for which this theater was built to show.

theauteur on November 27, 2008 at 9:09 pm

5thly, also running movies, doesn’t make that much money for the theater.

i wish these societal influences didn’t exist, because i wish for the theater to maintain as a movie theater, a independent movie theater, and i would love for this theater to become popular again, because i love rushing around, asking people what they want, and getting them there popcorm, etc.

i hope also that the state recognizes this theaters need, and helps pump some money into restorations, not only to meet fire code requirements which they themselves put in place, but also so that the marquee which hasn’t lit up the word ioka in sometime, may do so in the future.

theauteur on November 27, 2008 at 9:05 pm

There are many societal influences that are going against the ioka theater, and in return making it hard for the theater to continue.

1stly, the theater is an indepedent company, not a non profit, or a corporation, which our capitalistic society sides with.

2ndly, it is a small town entity, therefore it relies on its towns patrons for it to make money.

3rdly, the economy is just bad.

4rthly, the state and town put so many restrictions on a venue like this, which acts against it, rather than for it, and in return costing more money, than money earned.

gouin on November 22, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I just heard that the IOKA theatre is closing it’s doors on Christmas eve. After 93 years, is Exeter going to lose the centerpiece of local culture? After talking with owner Roger Detzler about the reality of trying to continue operating with a necessary upgrade of a sprinkler system (remember The Station nightclub in Rhode Island?), it is simply not cost effective to do so. The root of the problem is lack of local support.
While Portsmouth celebrates and generously supports it’s own Music Hall, and Rochester does the same with The Opera House, the people of Exeter blatantly ignore the historic gem right here in downtown. Will we be saying 7 years from now, boy, I sure do miss the IOKA theatre, it would have been 100 this year.
Why is there no local support? Everyone seems to care about the bandstand like it’s some great architectural marvel. Then there’s Swasey parkway and the pavilion there. Realistically, both are only usable 4 months a year, weather permitting. The IOKA is a year round venue.
I’ve seen Roger try everything to generate local interest in the IOKA, offering a huge variety of entertainment, unique films and events. Does anyone remember the pride we all felt when Exeter’s own Dan Brown held the premiere of The DaVinci Code at the IOKA? Or remember standing in line all the way around the corner to the string bridge to see Stoogefest? Or the sight of hundreds of Gothic teens descending on downtown Exeter to see the Dresden Dolls? Since the days of vaudeville, the IOKA has been part of the fabric of Exeter, the very identity of the downtown. With it’s iconic marquee and genuine Hollywood heritage, this is the cultural centerpiece of this community and it is closing next month, yet no one seems to care. For less than a million dollars, the town could purchase the historic theatre and revitalize the downtown area, and along with it, draw visitors from neighboring communities and bring customers to other downtown businesses. Other than the sprinkler system,the theatre already has had major improvements in recent years including a new sound system, new seats and a fresh coat of paint inside. Are we going to let the IOKA disappear forever or has the time come to act now and save it before it’s gone forever? The choice is yours Exeter. And time is running out.

Richard Gouin