100TH BIRTHDAY: Theater Proud To Show Its Age

Posted on: 10:32 pm, December 18, 2013, by

As residents of Story City gathered to celebrate the 100th birthday of a landmark they also began looking forward to the next century.

The sign says “Iowa Historic Site” but The Story Theater Grand Opera House’s past was alive, Wednesday night.

“This was the only place that I saw movies,” said 92-year-old Katherine Munsen, “ten cents it cost.”

Alive and well, 100 years to the day after it opened in Story City.

“This area here,” said Story City native, Paul Wierson, “the ticket area, is the very same place I walked into when I was five.”

From the woodwork and lighting to the original seats – it’s all still here.

There might not be a better-preserved theater in the Midwest.

“It has never closed,” said owner, Todd Thorson. “Even when they did all this remodeling in the 30’s, they stayed open.”

It’s always been a place for more than just films. The orchestra pit is still functional, the original hand-painted backdrop, the backstage is covered with signs of the original owner and of the many acts he booked.

“It’s not fancy in here but it’s been maintained and preserved,” said Thorson.

This place is special, but still faced with the same dilemma other theaters are—an old projector and a desperately-needed digital upgrade.

“To do it right, about $75,000 is about what we need to do.”

Even in a place proud of its throwback theater, bucking up for digital seems very doable.

“Once you do have the digital technology,” Wierson reasoned, “all of a sudden, you can play Gone With the Wind here, again.”

It could give the town and its theater a future.

“It’s important that we can stay in Story City—our own town,” Munsen said.

A future rooted in the handiwork of the past.

“Something like this that we’ve always known,” said Wierson, “that still lights up on the weekend, that is important.”

The Story City theater is the oldest continuously-running theater in the state.  It plays first-run movies every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.