Call Theatre (I)

108 N. Thorington Street,
Algona, IA 50511

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Additional Info

Architects: Harry G. Carter

Previous Names: Call Opera House

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Call Theatre (I)

Located opposite the Courthouse. Established in 1892 by brothers Asa and Ambrose Call as a vaudeville and opera house, the opening play was “Gloryana” on February 9, 1893. On September 23, 1916 it converted to movies for the increasing popularity of moving pictures and was eventually renamed Call Theatre. The Call Theatre, suffered a devastating fire on April 28, 1937 from which it never recovered.

There was talk of a new theatre being built, but this didn’t happen, and the Call Theatre operation was transferred to the State Theatre which had opened in 1936 and it was renamed New Call Theatre (it has its own page on Cinema Treasures).

Contributed by elmorovivo

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 8, 2018 at 10:09 am

The Call Opera House in Algona IA is listed in the 1897-98 Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. C.H. Blossom was Mgr. There were 600 seats. Ticket prices 25 cents – $1. Oil lamp illumination. The proscenium opening was 21 feet wide X 20 feet high; the stage was 30 feet deep. The theatre was on the ground floor. There were 6 musicians in the house band. There were 3 weekly newspapers, and 2 hotels for show folk. The 1897 population was 3,000.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 25, 2020 at 8:02 pm

The April 2, 1973 edition of the Kossuth County Advance had an article about the April 28, 1937 fire that destroyed the Call Opera House. It said that the operators of the opera house also operated a small movie house called the Iowa Theatre, located two doors north of the Call.

From the article’s description of the theater’s block of Thorington Street, the Opera House must have been the second building north of State Street, as the balcony of the theater had a fire exit door leading into the second floor of the Security State Bank building, which was on the corner of State Street. The bank is still there, but in a modern building, but the Opera house must have been on the site of what is now the bank’s parking lot. The Iowa Theatre might have been in the building now occupied by an optometrist’s office, Eyes on Thorington, at 112 N. Thorington. The address of the Opera House was probably 108 N. Thorington.

SethG on December 4, 2023 at 10:39 am

It was originally 4th from the corner, but a new bank built around 1910 (which is the white building to the right in the photo) replaced the earlier structures. You are correct about the Iowa’s location. This block has been pretty badly butchered, but the distinctive brickwork on the building to the left of the Iowa can still be seen. Address was indeed 106-108 for the opera house.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 5, 2023 at 1:32 pm

An item datelined Algona in Moving Picture World of December 30, 1911 said that “C. M. Stevens and Roscoe Call will open a moving picture theater in the Call Opera House in a few days.” An item in the December 23 issue of the same journal had noted that “M. Stevens” was planning to build a movie theater at Algona. This was probably the same Stevens, but I’ve been unable to discover if his venture with Mr. Call was in lieu of or in addition to his new theater project.

In any case, the conversion of the opera house in 1912 was undoubtedly temporary. The 1914-1915 American Motion Picture Directory lists only the Broadway and Magic theaters at Algona. It was not until September 23, 1916 that MPW announced that the recently remodeled Call Opera House had reopened as a movie theater and would continue to operate as such except when theatrical attractions were available.

50sSNIPES on January 30, 2024 at 7:35 pm

After waiting for months and months after the city has been wanting an opera house for a while, the opera house was officially planned during the week of April 13, 1892. The original construction of the 48x124ft building was erected several days later facing the north on Thorington Street just north of the original First National Bank.

Original information about its planning featured offices on the first and second floors which were 30ft deep. The remaining 94ft will be the hall and auditorium which would occupy both stories with an arched ceiling measuring 24ft high, which gives a room of 90x47x24 in the clear with a gallery supported by iron pillars and otherwise fitted in first class opera house style. The Call name was named after Mr. Ambrose A. Call, who was the first owner of the theater as well as the one who erected the building with an estimate $25,000 in construction.

The Call Opera House then officially opened its doors to the public on February 9, 1893 with a live presentation of “Gloriana” along with musical performances by the Iowa State Band and opening announcements delivered by Lafe Young, a prominent politician at the time. Call formed his own Algona Opera House Company, with Harvey Ingham as president, T.F. Cook as the vice-president, S.S. Sessions as the secretary, and Charles C. St. Clair as the treasurer.

Norman C. Rice began taking over the theater in September 1916, which at the same time on September 23 would began screening silent movies. The Call Theatre would then install sound in 1929. Rice would later become the member of the Tri-State Theaters chain.

On September 1, 1936, the Call Opera House officially became local headlines following a box office sneak involving $70 being robbed led by former Algona boys Kenneth and Dick Neitzel, age 15 and 12, who lived in Fort Dodge at the time of the incident.

The end of its operation marks a devastating disaster as one of the most spectacular fires in the history of the city when the afternoon hours of April 28, 1937 rolled along. The fire was discovered at 2:15 PM CT in the afternoon that day and brought a $60,000-$75,000 loss. After the fire department arrived, they attempted to fight the fires inside but because of the smoke being too dense, they have no choice but to poor water out of their buckets and use their hoses to spray the exterior. The entire downtown was blanked with black smoke in the air and the entirety was watched by many.

Rice promised that a new theater will be built shortly after the fire demolished the former house which will have the same amount of seats as the old house, but that was immediately turned down. Instead, they moved in to the State Theatre which opened the previous year and changed its name to the New Call Theatre (which will have its own page on Cinema Treasures soon).

  • NOTE: I accidentally added a duplicate page on accident, I hope they can fix it soon.
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