Bijou Theatre

4th Street and Walnut Street,
Des Moines, IA 50309

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Moore's Hall, Moore's Opera House, Wonderland Theatre

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One of Iowa’s most important entertainment venues was Billy Moore’s Opera House which was constructed during the Civil War and opened in 1866 as Moore’s Hall. Iowa’s legislature conducted business there during a period of construction on the Capitol, Ulysses S. Grant made a speech about the separation of church and state, and there were entertainment troupes both locally and from all over the world who played there.

Though producing live entertainment shows for virtually its entire run as Moore’s Hall, Moore’s Opera House, Wonderland Musée, and Wonderland Theatre, its final operator – Fred Buchanan and his Bijou Theatre worked in “Kinidrome” short films with vaudeville. Buchanan’s Ingersoll and Bijou were where Iowans saw their first motion pictures. When “The Great Train Robbery” became the most requested act on the vaudeville card, Buchanan knew he had a winner.

When the Bijou Theatre moved to its new location at 612 Locust Street, the Kinidrome was permanently installed and the theatre advertised the film being played by title - a first for the medium in Des Moines. The Bijou Theatre became the Nickeldom and the rest was moving picture history. A fire sale of furniture housed in the long-vacant Opera House resulted in a fire that totally consumed the legendary building.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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