Saturday, February 25, 2006

Early View of the Majestic

At 210-8th, the Majestic ran live acts and features continuously from 1pm to 11pm, 15 cents for a matinee, 25 cents for an evening show ("Des Moines' Greatest Amusement Value!". This was one of Kip Elbert and Jack Getchell's original three venues (the other two being the Unique on Locust, and the legit Princess on 4th), until it became part of the Orpheum circuit, then diving into a brief stint as a burlesque house (as The Garrick), and finally as an all-legit house, The President, which lasted until its destruction in 1938.

A Dainty Program at the Garden

The Garden's marquee/logo makes its appearance in this 1919 ad from the Capitol--the most notable elements here being the Hawaiian photodrama (that's WWI code for "color slide show") and the "famous orchestra and pipe organ" promised for accompaniment. (I remember the late Dick Kraemer at ISU in Ames having no less than 3 movie theatre pipe organs lying disassembled around his house--what theatres they were from I don't know. And what happened to his movie and memorabilia collection I also don't know--ISU was hinting he will it to them!)

Marguerite Clark, then a big star who made 40 films in 7 years but largely unremembered today, is described twice in the copy as "dainty"--a favorite term of the period. (Ads for downtown restaurants at that time even described the dishes as "dainty"!)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Aw Shucks, It's The Pioneer Drive-In

The Pioneer roadside marquee, with "Drive-In" painted out and Shucks Popcorn being shucked on the marquee face. This is circa 1986, about a year after closing, with the screen, projection booth, and sign still relatively intact at its 2099 S.E. 14th Street location.

The Pioneer opened in August of '59 (rather late in the season to open), and continued through 1985. (Check earlier posts to see tickets and a tel-op slide!)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cappy at the Capitol DI

Not a tel-op slide this time--but a restored frame from an intermission film shown at the Capitol Drive-In. Cappy the Clown was the venue's mascot, shown often in ads and logos, and also presented as a fully-costumed character on-site. What the gifts were is anybody's guess.

And one more thing, kids--check in with this blog later on, and I will have additional clips from this intermission film for you!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Palace Ad, 1919

The Palace was located about where the Ruan Center now stands, at 607-609 Locust, and had a reasonably long run from 1913 to 1931.

This ad, from the defunct newspaper The Des Moines Capital ("Every Inch A Newspaper"), is a wonderful time capsule in itself--has anybody ever heard of "The Heart of Humanity", the movie that "will live forever"? Somehow, the raves quoted here aren't especially encouraging--the Secretary of War weighs in his two cents, and the Chicago American dubs it "the peer of 'Birth of a Nation'". Uh oh. And tickets prices are upped to a whopping 50 cents for this run--when typical admissions at this time were 5 to 10 cents--which still beats the big city fares of two dollars.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Capri, in Neon

The real Capri sign, in glorious yellow neon, as opposed to the anonymously "tasteful" wooden plaque it was replace by when the strip got its wooden awning makeover. This shot is likely from the early 80s, by photographer/artist Andy Mentzer. (Side note: he's the guy who lovingly restored the house and the gas station for the movie "Bridges of Madison County"!)

Our anonymous poster is absolutely correct about Kaul's vitriol re The Sound of Music--the sight of this ad circa 1967 must have pushed him over the edge!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Eastgate Slide

Not only is the original slide shot crooked--it's also terminally blurry (unless it was someone's bright idea to have a white drop shadow on white type!) This gloriously unretouched slide trumpets "Iowa's only twin theatre", the Eastgate Cinema I & II, now closed along with its sister theatre, the Cinema III.

I don't have the dates on when this duplex opened and closed, as it was still operating when I left Des Moines in 1988. Can anybody help on this? Thanks in advance!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Iowa Theatre - A Woman of Paris

From early 1923 comes this two-sided flyer from the Iowa Theatre, which was located at 319-321 East 5th. I haven't fully pinned down the opening year of this venue, and some of my notes suggest this may have been an opera house prior to becoming a movie house (which one I don't know)--but the location remained open until 1958. Judging by what's there now (office of The Courier), it looks like the original structure is long since demolished.

Click on the picture and take a look at the extent the exhibitors took to warn the public of the film's 'adult' nature, in this pre-ratings, pre-code era.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Plantation Drive-In Slide and Sign

Above is another tel-0p slide I restored--date of creation unknown.
Below is the Plantation marquee just after going out of business in 1987--the sign is plainer than it normally was, due to winds from a nearby tornado knocking the top off the week before.

Riviera 1978

The River Hills and Riviera weren't anything baroque to look at from the outside, but they were good, solid screening rooms--generally the best picture and sound in town. Most people credit their biggest blockbuster memories to these houses--this photo circa 1978 is but one example.

The building, at 222 Crocker near Vets Auditorium, was razed in 2003.

(This photo is from the TRHS 1978 Yearbook, which carries no copyright. If there is any objection to running this photo, please email me and I will take it down. )

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ingersoll Tel-Op Slide

The Ingersoll is one of the very few Lost Cinemas that still retains its original building--luckily, it looks pretty similar to how it looked when it opened in 1942. The theatre switched from movies to live theatre in 1978, when it became the Ingersoll Dinner Theatre. Its marquee has recently been restored, and much of the original tiling is still available to see.

The slide shown above is from its movie exhibition days, and has been restored, evening out the colors and eliminating dust and scratches.

Garden Marquee Sign

The Garden Theatre, at 615 Locust, was one of the more attractive showplaces downtown, and had a long run, surviving floods and the Depression, from 1917 through 1951. As with the RKO Orpheum's later transformation into the Galaxy, it was thought that a modern name change might keep patrons away from their new televisions, but the new monicker Rocket must not have worked well--it lasted about a year until the theater closed forever in 1952.

What you see here is my restoration of the sign (which also served as the Garden's logo in newspaper ads) complete with chase lights. I haven't worked it into my film just yet, but it will find a place!

If the animated GIF doesn't loop for you here, here's a link to a looping Quicktime version:
Garden Marquee Loop

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Capitol Drive-In Tickets

Still-attached threesome of Capitol Drive-In tickets--admission 75 cents! Presumably, these were not from the end of the DI's 20-year run that ended in 1982. Click on the picture and check out the breakdown of admission price and state tax!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Capitol DI Sign - Restored!

On the left is the Capitol Drive-In sign, as it was last seen circa 1986 at its 4646 N.E. 14th location. Rumor has it that the sign is in storage with the Iowa Historical Society, though I have heard nothing further about it. On the right is my Photoshop restoration I did of it that will be used in the film--in the motion version, the chase lights are fully operational, and titles are on the marquee. (A short black-and-white variation appears in the Lost Cinemas trailer.)

Click on the picture above for a better look!

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Downtown Lyric, at night

This is the downtown version of the Lyric (as opposed to the West Des Moines/Valley Junction Lyric, whose building now houses the Theatrical Shop), at 421 Walnut. This little theatre had a pretty short run, from just 1908 through 1912.

The view shown here is from a postcard dated 1911.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pioneer Tickets!

This is fun--a strip of unused tickets to the Pioneer Drive-In! The exact year? I don't know, though any local exhibitor who's worth his/her salt could tell you by the admission price (a whopping $1.75!)

Rare Photo: The Beaver Theatre

Here's a rather rare shot (the only one I've ever seen, in fact) of the Beaver Theatre at 2706 Beaver in Beaverdale. This is the same building that housed Iowa Service Hobby, and an upstairs dance studio. I recall seeing light sconces on the walls of the dance studio that looked as if they might be left over from the theatre days, but nobody working there knew anything about it.

The Beaver started its career as the Gem in 1936, then took its neighborhood namesake in 1936, running as such until its closure in 1957.

Pioneer Drive-In Tel-Op Slide

Here's another great tel-op--and a much older one at that: for the Pioneer Drive-In, located at 2099 S.E. 14th Street, across and down from the S.E.14th Street Drive-In. The Pioneer opened around 1960 and closed shop in 1985. It's become an open-air sales lot of various kinds since then--when I left town, the screen and marquee were still up, and may be still. (Can anyone confirm? Thanks.)

A Slide of the Galaxy

Here's what they used to call a "tel-op" slide, which was used to tag onto movie previews advertised on local TV. The full-resolution version of this has been completely restored and cleaned up--which was slightly tricky, since the slide appears to have been photographed slightly out-of-focus to begin with. This is fun to look at mainly because of the Galaxy logo itself, looking very much like the final version of the sign on the marquee at 412-8th Street downtown.

The Galaxy came a long way from its origins--beginning as the Empress in 1908, becoming the Pantages in 1921, the Sherman in 1922, the RKO Orpheum in 1933 (not to be confused with the other Orpheum further down the street at 210-8th), and finally as the Galaxy in 1966.

I caught a rerun of "Jaws" there sometime in 1976, and marveled at the decaying opulence of its interior. Good thing I took note of it then, because the following year, it closed and was razed for parking.

The Strand (was Unique)

The Strand, at 614 Locust, began life as the nickelodeon called Nickeldom (created by Elbert and Getchell in 1905). Here's the logo that adorned most of the newspaper ads at the time.

Its first name change dubbed it the Unique from 1908-1920 (as pictured here), and finally took the monicker Strand under the A.H. Blank empire--it retained this name the longest, until its closure in 1953. (I have pictures of the Nickeldom and Unique incarnations, but nothing from the Strand era--do any of you out there have anything? Drop me a line at

Also shown here is a matchbook from the Palms Restaurant, located "below" the Strand at 616 Locust.

Ideal Program and Building

The Ideal was a nabe that, despite its small size, put out a very thick (40 pages!) souvenir program--the black and white images here are from a 1939-1940 winter program.

The color photo on the left, from 1986, shows the Ideal in quite altered form--the only hints of its former self appear in the red and black deco tiling around the door. There didn't appear to be an active business there at the time I shot this, and it appears to have been up for rent in the 2003 Assessor's photograph on the right (which shows the deco material built over). Wonder if there's anything interesting left in the former projection booth...?

Take a drive on over to 2447 East Walnut and see what you can see.

Orpheum Souvenir Program

A lovely cover for the Orpheum Theatre souvenir program--from the spring of 1919!

This would be from the Orpheum on 8th below Walnut--the one seen in the opening shot of my trailer.

Capitol DI Letterhead

Here's the official letterhead that was used by the Capitol Drive-In--check out the emphasis on the electric in-car heaters! "No Dangerous Fumes". "Completely weather-proofed and grounded". "Heater may be placed on dashboard, floor, or seat of car."

The big irony: "Anytime is Outdoor Movie Time". Yet, this didn't save drive-ins in the chilly midwest, and--harder to believe--even in sunny southern CA. As I write this, there are no drive-ins left in L.A. County at all. And of course, with the demise of the SE14th Street DI, Des Moines is entirely without drive-ins as well.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Welcome to Lost Cinemas of Greater Des Moines!

Welcome to Lost Cinemas!

I'm Mark, a former Des Moines resident, and I've been collecting materials about all the neighborhood and downtown movie theatres of old Des Moines, and am now putting together a short 22-minute documentary about them.

As I assemble the movie, I'll be posting bits and pieces of the work in progress, as well as various items from my collection that I think you will find as fascinating as I do. Please let me know if you have any materials, stories, memories, anything regarding the vanished theatres--if it's something I don't have that fits the program, I'll be happy to discuss inclusion of the material into the film itself.

The picture above is a giveaway "lobby card" I've been including in the promo packs I mail out--the picture in the middle is a frame from the main title I have animated, which can be better seen in the preproduction trailer I've assembled to promote the project--check out a small Quicktime of it at:

You'll be hearing a lot more about the project as time rolls along, so please join the blog and check back often! Thanks.