Movie theaters come in all shapes and sizes: from meeting halls and converted opera houses of the early 20th century to mid-century drive-ins and the multiplexes of today. Depending on the venue (and the movie, for that matter), the experience is different from the moment you read the marquee until the last credit rolls off the screen. Today, we snack on pizza and nachos while sitting on rocking chairs fastened to steeply pitched risers in a short auditorium. We probably walked through the mall to get there and we’ll walk through a sea of cars to get out. But, many of us also remember sitting in a long Main Street auditorium looking down over the backs of rows and rows of people and seats. The gently sloped floor was always slightly sticky, and we felt special if we could grab one of the loveseat-sized chairs on the occasional end of the row. We walked down the street to get there—either from our house or our car parked a block away—and walked past the same brightly lit storefronts to get home.

Hollywood in the Heartland

Preservation Iowa is partnering with the State Historic Preservation Office, Main Street Iowa and the Iowa Tourism Office to learn more about Iowa’s movie houses and the state’s connections to Hollywood. This will be a multi-year, multi-phase project concentrating primarily on properties built for or associated with the movies before 1970. As the project gets going, our movie theater pages will be updated to reflect the results.

In the meantime, if you have a wonderful movie theater in your town, or know of another property that could help represent Hollywood in the Heartland, we want to hear from you. Please contact Paula Mohr at the State Historic Preservation Office for more information about the survey. Paula can be reached at or 515.281.6826. Digital copies of the Iowa Site Inventory Form for theatres are available on the State Historic Preservation Office link below. Help us learn more about the last 100 years of Iowa cinema!

Project Press

SHSI Press Release December 21, 2007
Spot on SHPO from The Iowa preservationists Volume 17, No. 3 ( 161.56 KB)

Iowa Movie Theater Links

Hollywood in the Heartland project website:
State Historic Preservation Office: Theatre page