Saturday, September 16, 2006

Rialto - Temple of the "Two Abes"

From 1919, we have an ad in the Capitol for the Rialto Theatre, located at 721 Locust, and owned by Abe Frankle and Abe H. Blank. It's worth noting that Blank, in adding a slogan to the street sign for this place, adapted the slogan used by New York City's Rialto: "Temple of the Motion Picture, Shrine of Music and the Allied Arts". Blank's snappier version: "Temple of the Silent Art". The Rialto outlasted its tagline slightly, as it exhibited a short distance into the sound era, but going completely silent--and dark--when its doors closed in 1933.

"Lost Cinemas" Comes To YouTube

Flatteringly, I have been bootlegged--and no, I'm not mad at all.

The "Lost Cinemas" trailer is now available for viewing (in what looks to me to be a crunchier, more compressed version) at All you have to do is search for Lost Cinemas, and voila! There 'tis. (But you saw it here first...right?)

Much thanks to the two people so far who have given it a 5-star rating! Hey guys--when I finally premiere this thing, I hope you're there. (And that you brought your writing pencils!)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Roosevelt, in 1935

Check out the Roosevelt Theater (or, as you probably know it, the Playhouse) back when it was nearly new in 1935, and check out the Roosevelt Shopping Center, with all its winged billboards.

On the marquee: "Ruggles of Red Cap" starring Charles Laughton--in glorious Technicolor! (Shameless work-related plug, there.)

The Ideal, Recently

The Ideal's latest incarnation, at the same old address of 2447 E. Walnut, is that of an 8-plex apartment building. The new front awning and façade completely obliterate what little was left of the red and black deco tile from its theater days--in fact the only theater element I could see that still remained was the awning supports, still hanging down across the face, holding up nothing.

This photo is from my recent trip back to Des Moines, during which I tried to film/photograph whatever I could find for my documentary--a difficult task since there is even less to find than ever before! The screen at the Plantation was gone, and numerous locations (Eastown/1536, Amuzu, Capitol Drive-In, and others) were vacant lots--not a scrap of rubble to be found. The fine folks at Ed Garner's Autorama were nice enough to let me poke around their RV lot--formerly the Pioneer Drive-In--and shoot the screen there, nearly blocked by 20-odd years of tree growth. (They said the marquee sign was back there somewhere, but I couldn't find it at all.) Oddest of all, the Forest Theater building was constantly in the news--currently the home of Creative Visions, which is being audited very publicly.

On the upside, Des Moines appears to be finally putting some faith in itself again--everywhere, massive construction and renovation. Lots of old downtown buildings converted to living quarters again. New bridges everywhere. A vastly improved MLK parkway. Good going, gang.
Now just get a decent parking lot near the Ingersoll and get that opened up again, and you'll be all right!

Hiland Plan Excerpt

The south elevation (or, as we outside the architectural world call it, "the front view") of the second Hiland theater, as drafted by Wetherell and Harrison in April of 1938. This streamline style was very popular at the time, as was the use of glass bricks in the marquee tower--seen here as criss-cross lines flanking the middle. The idea was that multiple sets of colored lights behind the glass could be turned on alternately, giving the marquee a different appearance for each night.

(Drawing courtesy of Wetherell Ericsson Architecture.)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Trek to the Hills, 1979

December 7, 1979: my girlfriend and I have joined the throng on Crocker's walk around 4pm, in a gigantic line awaiting the premiere of Star Trek's first comeback, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture".

It's cold--we're bundled up and shivering, and other people have brought sleeping bags and little heaters, making the line look like an encampment. Every 10 minutes, a self-designated timekeeper near the front of the line yells out something like, "2 hours and 40 minutes to go!" And everyone cheers. Every time. The cheers are especially large for major markers--"2 hours!"--"1 hourrrrr!"--and when it gets down to the last 5 minutes, it's completely crazy, a call every minute. The street nearly explodes when the call "Doors opening!" comes through. The packs are hoisted, the wallets unpocketed. The line inches inward, into blissful, popcorn-scented warmth.

More cheers as the surprisingly austere main title comes on. And when the Klingon ship first dips into view. A news crew is there filming, as an unrecognizably-made-up Mark Lenard (as the Klingon captain) yells something like "Kreplach!" and photon torpedoes shoot into the mysterious space cloud. It is like the Beatlemanic screenings of "A Hard Day's Night": every time a familiar character hits the screen: screams, applause. Des Moines native Stephen Collins, as Commander Decker, tells Captain Kirk that Kirk doesn't know the Enterprise a tenth as well as he does. "Bull$#*+!!" calls someone from the peanut gallery. Laughs, more applause.

The film goes on, at first indulgent--47 closeups of the refitted Enterprise in porno detail!--then glacial: 7-minute shots of the V'ger cloud intercut with Sulu and Uhura staring wordlessly into its maw. But none of us care. We have all sent our letters to Paramount and Roddenberry over the years, and have just received the fruits of our democratic actions, just in time for Christmas. The pace picks up just in time to give the finale some of the adrenaline of the original series, and then we all spill smiling into the winter night, looking for our cars through puffs of icy breath.

We have seen new Star Trek, with the original cast (and a Des Moines native), on a Cinerama screen, in Dolby surround, at the fabulous River Hills.

Ahhh. Moviegoing!

Documentary Update

My apologies for being so long between posts, but I've been busy--with new materials that have come in for the film project.

First off, Mr. Bob Fridley, of Fridley Theatres and Video, sent me a wonderful box of photos, clippings, ads, and articles from his personal collection--including rare shots of the Capri, Varsity, River Hills and Riviera, and the Lincoln/Holiday. I've been busy scanning and animating these items, and the results thus far have been really exciting for me. And Mr. Fridley has invited me to visit him when I'm in town this August, which should be a real treat.

Mr. Bob Meza, of NBC (heck, just a mile or so away from the Technicolor office in Burbank), has graciously allowed use of his theater photos, most of which cover the demolition of the Riviera and River Hills on--of all dates--September 11, 2001. Smaller versions of these can be seen over here on the Cinematour site.

Last and not least, the wonderful people at Wetherell Ericsson Architecture were gracious enough to dig up a complete set of blueprints for the Hiland Theater that the firm made back in 1938 when it was still the Wetherell-Harrison partnership. These are astounding to see on a number of levels--the detail, the craftsmanship, even the hand-lettered material (with the striking diagonal O's) is something to see. (These plans refer to the second, Moderne-style Hiland at 423 Euclid that exhibited from 1938 to 1967, not the previous house at 3602-6th that opened in 1923 and ran until the second version was constructed.)

I will continue to make posts, and offer a bit of this new material now and then, but there's a lot of work to do still on the doc itself. Please be patient--I promise it will be worth the wait!

And, as ever, if you should happen to stumble on any materials, please let me know--it's likely they will make it into the film somehow!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Popcorn Riot at the Capri, circa 1971

Story time: I think it was around the beginning of Christmas break in 1971 when an ad went out that Place's (the dime store next to Safeway at 42nd and University) was giving away free tickets to kids for a movie to be shown at the Capri, right across the street, as a holiday treat. Free popcorn and pop came with the deal. All you had to do was go to Place's, get your ticket, and go.

I did--to see something called "Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows", which was the 1968 sequel to a Hayley Mills film, "The Trouble With Angels". The plot involved teenage nuns running amok at the St. Francis convent--why someone thought this might appeal to a pre-teen, not-necessarily-Catholic crowds, I'm not sure. (But hey--it hadn't been too long since someone else had thought "The Flying Nun" was a good idea.)

The place was packed. Nuns or no, a free movie was a free movie. And trouble followed: the kids (except me and my friend John) were going berserk, screaming, jumping up and down on the seats, chasing each other up and down the aisles and stairs. A kid from my third grade class, who always played the part of the tough guy, was making full use of his free popcorn--initiating a full-on popcorn-throwing battle with a friend of his I'd never seen before. I don't remember any attempt by the management to try and calm things down--not that they really could have. The mania was too widespread.

Then: the movie. Old nuns, teen nuns, and a school bus paraded across the screen--the only thing I remember was that they mounted a pair of steer horns on the bus' hood at one point. (Such unbridled nunnity!) Strangely, the crowd actually settled down and watched the show without further melee. And two hours later, we left, blinking in Saturday afternoon light--leaving the poor Capri the dirtiest I'd ever seen it. None of us ever talked about it again. And--if I recall rightly--Place's and the Capri never held another free movie there again.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Meanwhile, Further Down 8th Street

Just down a couple blocks from the Empress, the Orpheum was not only running its own slate of vaudeville, but also (according to the small print) offering up the news of the world in that newfangled techonological wonder, the Kinogram.

Live at the Empress

An ad from the Des Moines Capitol newspaper, from when the Empress was predominantly running live vaudeville before becoming a movie house for the rest of its run. (You'll recall it ended up as the Galaxy.)

Note that the meager prices "include war tax"--World War I, that is.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Great Uncle Leo and his Date at the Garrick

As mentioned previously, the Orpheum at 208-8th street eventually reached a checquered point in its history when it became a burlesque house on the Mutual circuit, from 1925 to 1928, before a final attempt to rescue its reputation by becoming The President Theatre just prior to The Crash.

My great uncle, Leo Myron Satterlee (he, that crashed the "State Fair" premiere party some years later) found himself on a date there. He was living with someone who took in roomers, and it was one of these very roomers that led to the date. As Leo tells it:

Pearl [his househost] mentioned that while I was gone, a new theater had opened up in town, and she would like to go. I had never seen this girl [the roomer] before but Pearl said, "why don't we get reservations, make a foursome, and go see the show?" She called the theater but we could not get them for that night, so she made them for the next night. It turned out to be a burlesque stage show with live actors. Some of the skits were pretty risque for that time. I was embarrassed and the girl just slid down and would not look at the stage. She finally left before the show finished. In one of the skits, a man came out carrying a rooster and a lady carrying a kitten... [I think we've all probably heard this joke before!]

This Garrick Theater did not have shows every night of the week and once they advertised a men's-only show about the ravages of venereal disease. It was sponsored by most of the big companies in town, including the company I worked for. One night, several of the fellows got together and went. It showed actual pictures of what happened to the body of a victim. I decided then and there I would never chance such a thing. One of the fellows knew one of the ushers, as they were all volunteers from various places in town. He told us that one night, two girls dressed like boys came and were seated when the head usher got suspicious and challenged them. One of them cocked her head, looked up at him and said, "Yes, we have no bananas."

An S. Barger took over management duties under the Garrick monicker, and Joseph Oppenheimer--of the Mutual Burlesque Association--promised the theater would present "high standard shows", in an attempt to refute the "abuse" the term "burlesque" had suffered of late!

An Ode to Two Drive-Ins

To the right is a photo of a flyer sitting in the rubble of the Capitol Drive-In in the late 1980s--advertising something that was once fairly commonplace for drive-ins to do: Sunday morning open-air church services, with the sermons coming in over the attachable car speakers.

Around that same time, I was going to the S.E. 14th Street Drive-In a lot, and getting a good laugh out of the rocking vans and sudden brake-lights during the show. I thought of the church flyer I'd found at the Capitol site, and was struck by the irony of a place that be a passion pit one night, and then, a few hours later, a redemption spot. The chorus lyric popped right into my head, and then I scribbled down the rest of the lyrics right then, combining the Capitol and the S.E. 14th into a single south-side drive-in experience.

South Side Drive-In Night
(M. Heggen)

Late in the weekend when the sun goes down
Something is starting at the edge of town
The good ol' boys are taking good ol' gals
Out for a good ol' badass time

Cheapest thrills that you have ever seen
Found under a ninety foot asbestos screen
The South Side Drive-In Theater
Was still a legend in its prime

Well who could have known that while the folks at home
Lay dreaming with eyes shut tight
Everybody'd be singin' on Sunday morning
After sinnin' on Saturday night

Temperature's rising as the screen lights up
Whiskey and Fresca from a paper cup
Heartbeats hittin' in overdrive
While the car's just sittin' in park

Shadows moving as the picture shows
Chinese firedrill in the back three rows
Bright eyes winking in the snack bar light
And brake lights blink in the dark

Well who would have guessed that while they did their best
To raise hay with all of their might
Everybody'd be singin' on Sunday morning
After sinnin' on Saturday night

Forty-two winks after the midnight rain
The bottles are empty and the back seat's stained
Boyfriend's heaving in misery
While girlfriend's left in the lurch

Oleo glistens on a paper cup
And catching the light as the sun comes up
The South Side Drive-In Theater
Becomes the South Side Drive-In Church

Well I should have known that way down home
They've their own way of puttin' things right
Everybody was singin' on Sunday morning
After sinnin' on Saturday night

(Copyright 1989 Mark Heggen)

When I recorded the song shortly after (with local scenesters Lonnie Urich on drums and Rick Van Oel on lead guitar), I added a scrap of an honest-to-goodness S.E. 14th intermission film audio, which I'd taped on my boom box one night, tuning in to the drive-in's radio audio. (Listeners might mistakenly note a couple of blasphemous moments in the recording, but offense can only be taken if it's Got that you believe in!)

Here's the link to the mp3: South Side Drive-In Night mp3

Saturday, April 15, 2006

From A Previous Attraction

Though not exactly a Lost Cinema, the Plaza Theatre still falls into a grey area, because its original run as such was from 1967 to 1987, before closing for a few years and being reborn as the Merle Hay Cinema, which today still seats 808 people, making it the biggest screen--and screening room--in town.

At the top is one of two tel-op slides I have with the Plaza monicker--once again, the image is a bit blurry or doubled, a flaw inherent in the actual glass slide. (I wonder if parking at the Mall is still "supervised"?)

Below is a lenticular coming-attractions board that was used to be mounted over a one-sheet of whatever feature was coming next at the Plaza.

More to come about the Plaza: a strip of original tickets, another tel-op slide (featuring an image of what used to be called the "Merle Hay Plaza"), and a photo of the Plaza on its last day of operation in 1987!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Commercial Popper Catalog, 1929

So the story goes, Myron "Mike" Blank (son of A.H. Blank and the final Blank to run Central States) came up with the notion that popcorn might sell at the movies. That notion paid off, and by the 1920's, popcorn had replaced peanuts as the mainstay of concession food.

Iowa was a natural location for popcorn promotion, and by 1929, National Sales and Manufacturing offered a number of poppers for commercial use, as can be seen in this catalog. (In the very back: one lone peanut roaster for the luddite exhibitors of the movie world!)

I'll post more scans from the catalog in the future--meantime, click on the pix for a bigger view, and enjoy the text (especially the prices in the testimonials!)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Urban in the Suburbs

At 6817 Douglas was the Urban Theater, in--where else?--Urbandale. It's been more difficult to find concrete information about this locale--it appears to have opened around 1952, but I never did find out when it closed as a theater. The location has operated as a dance and gymnastics studio for at least a couple of decades--this photo from 1986 still shows traces of the Moderne style it was built in, with glass bricking on the left, and the unused one-sheet frame on the right. Nowadays, the façade looks very different--the makeover has placed a cloth or plastic awning where the marquee once was. (If anybody has more info on the Urban--which supposedly also ran as the Bijou at some point--I'd be grateful.)

Free passes to the Capitol D.I.!

Mildewed, torn, and probably unnecessary at this point, here are two free passes to the Capitol Drive-in! Just load up your car, head north to NE 14th and Broadway, hang a quick left, and drive on in. Unfortunately, the only movie you're likely to see is a frame or two of the Coming Attractions trailer, if you poke around the bushes long enough. (Come to think of it, even these passes won't get you in...they haven't been signed by the manager! Give Lloyd Hirstine or Jack Shriner a jingle and see if they can set you up...)

Mrs. Jordan, Silent Picture Accompanist

No photo today, but instead a story:

Caroline Jordan was a very pretty and nice old widow on my paper route, back in the mid-1970s. She lived in a house on University Avenue, across from and less than half a block east from the Capri Theater. I saw her every 2 weeks for collection, and sometimes more than that in winter, when I would shovel her walks, porch, and driveway. Sometimes I would stay and we would chat.

As it turns out, she was quite the piano player. We sat down at the keyboards and traded songs for a while, and I mentioned how impressive she was, wondering if she had ever played professionally. And, she replied, she had.

"I used to accompany the silent pictures in movie theaters," she said. "I knew all the themes, and could switch from one to another very quickly, depending on what was going on on the screen--there was a fast piece I played for the chase scenes, a melancholy piece for the sad scenes..."

This was during my film-collecting days (the Blackhawk catalog and Film Collector's World were my reading staples), so I was intrigued--but this was about a decade before my Lost Cinemas obsession took hold, so I didn't think to ask her where it was that she played as an accompanist. My guess would be one of the many downtown theatres, since most of the "nabes" didn't pop up until the sound era came in. Unless someone remembers her and tells me what they know, I can only guess where she played, as I'm sure she is long since gone.

(There was another Lost Cinemas widow on my paper route--in fact, she lived literally just around the corner from us at 39th and University, but didn't subscribe to the paper, so I didn't get to know her: she was the widow of either Elbert or Getchell, the two fellows that launched the Nickeldome and the Princess, among several others. You never know what interesting people there might be in your neighborhood...)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

More 'State Fair' with Great Uncle Leo

Another one of Leo Satterlee's photos from the "State Fair" premiere party he crashed in the summer of 1945, at the Hotel Fort Des Moines (itself a Lost Cinema location--the spot was once home to the Airdome, an open-air "walk-in" theater, from 1909 to 1913). Once again, he's showing off his crops to a Hollywood star. "I had no idea who she was", said Leo, and it is difficult to tell exactly who this is. She resembles the lead actress, Jeanne Crain, but Crain was not in town for the premiere, and this certainly doesn't appear to be blonde Carole Landis, child star Peggy Ann Garner (seen in my trailer, getting off from an amusement ride on Grand), nor cave-woman Jo-Carroll Dennison. If any readers can clue me in, please do!

Also not at the show, ironically, was "State Fair" actress Fay Bainter, who was a regular lead over at Elbert and Getchell's legit operation, The Princess, from 1914 to 1916.

Premiere day was jammed with activity all day and night--the street carnival began at 10am; live radio coverage with Ted Malone began at 10:45 live from 6th and Grand; lunch with the stars and Governor Blue at the hotel at noon; star appearances at the Vets hospital at 2; Peggy Ann Garner entertaining kids at the Sister Kenny cottage at 2:30; a WAC style show at the Younkers Tearoom with Carole Landis; a parade on Locust at 6; "Miss Des Moines" chosen at 7; stars' appearance at 6th and Grand at 8, followed by the premiere itself at both the Des Moines and Paramount theaters, with onstage appearances in both locations.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

S.E. 14th Street Drive In Ticket - 1987

From near the end of its run, this is what passed for admission tickets to the last drive-in to remain open in Des Moines. The $3.50 price seems pretty good for the late 80s even now.

This ozoner opened as the Des Moines Drive In at 6000 SE 14th Street in 1948 (the first in town), and lasted until 1998, when it was torn down (despite solid business) to make way for a Menard's outlet.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Des Moines Theater on Grand, 1930

Watch the clip: Des Moines Theater, 1930

A short animation I created, using 4 still photographs from the collection of Bill Volkmer, who graciously consented to let me use them. (Much of his collection of trolley photos can be seen online at: Des Moines Railway) The marquee headliner, All Quiet On The Western Front, dates the view as 1930.

I especially am proud of the little guy on the other side of the avenue, walking up the street with his shadow!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

President Program, 1930

By 1928, the Garrick was a short-lived experiment as a burlesque house, and was then leased by a New York-based actor named Bronson, who re-christened the venue The President, with initial plans to stage musicals 2 days a week. Actress Frances Dale (who had a small part in the movie "King of Kings" in 1927) was headliner and spokesperson--in the pamphlet, she encourages patrons to leave feedback on a small coupon in the back pages.

Among performers who trod the President's boards: Ed Wynn, W.C. Fields, Fred and Adele Astaire, Sarah Bernhardt, Lewis Stone, Leo Carillo, Sophie Tucker, and the Marx Brothers.

Check out the map on the right--the hotel on the same block is still called the Majestic (the President's original monicker), and in the lower left, the late institution that was the downtown Younkers can be seen.

The President enjoyed a decade-long run, closing and being demolished in 1938, to make way for a parking lot.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A 'State Fair' Encounter With Uncle Leo

My apologies for the quality of this--it's a photocopy of a photo print, from the autobiography of my great uncle, Leo Myron Satterlee.

He explains:
"[This picture shows] Jean Hersholt [on right] and myself, taken at a hotel in Des Moines where there was a party in progress for Mr. Hersholt and a group of stars who were there for the premiere of a motion picture ["State Fair"]. He was an old time character actor that went back to the silent picture days. I was living in Norwalk at the time, and heard him being interviewed on the radio. He stated that he had not seen any of Iowa's famous corn. It was dark. I went out to the field, felt around and got a good sized sack of sweet corn. I took Jessie [his wife], Marie, and Leonard [their kids] with me, and took the corn to the hotel where the party was still in progress...I told the man at the door what I had. They took all of us to the party. Took all kinds of pictures, and asked me to come back the next day to the depot, where they were leaving on the train, with more corn. More pictures were taken. At the party the lady star had on one of those topless dresses that had no visible means of support. Leonard whispered to his mother, "That lady don't have enough clothes on."

At some point, I'll post a couple more Leo stories--another short one about the State Fair premiere, and a wonderful anecdote about the Garrick (a.k.a. the Majestic, Orpheum, and President, at 210 8th) during its wild, woolly days as a burlesque house.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

River Hills Tel-Op Slide

This is what most of my slides look like unrestored--I do in fact have a restored version of this, but somehow this distressed original has more character to it, even if the colors are nearly too faded to boost. Side note: unlike most slides mounted for home use, these were mounted between squares of glass, with silver reflective coating on each side, and tape around the edge--built tough for repeated use.

Another Majestic View

Another, presumably earlier, view of the Majestic at 210-8th, with a considerably less ambitious marquee. At this stage of the game, the Majestic appears only to be emphasizing itself as a live vaudeville venue. In later years, as the President and the Garrick, the Majestic returned to a generally all-live format before its final closure in the late 1930's.

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.