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Iconic Des Moines Theater Full of History, Closing After 80 Years

DES MOINES, Iowa --  The Varsity Theater has had it's home in the Drake Neighborhood since the thirties. It's owner is retiring and says she's ready for the theater to breathe in new life.

On Saturday, the single -  screen theater featured a matinée as it usually does. It drew in its normal customers and newcomers alike since the announcement of the theater's closure. The theater business has run in owner, Denise Mahon's blood since she was born.

"My dad was always in theater business. Our birthday parties were in theaters and my birth announcement was on a strip of film. It's always been a part of our lives," she laughs.

When Mahon's father died in 2009. She took over the theater as owner but like any good movie, it must come to an end.

"Its been kind of grueling. It`s a 365 day a year operation and I've done it for last 10 years every single holiday and the majority of weekends and I think it's just time," says Mahon.

The theater has been a staple of the Drake Neighborhood since 1938. The family ran business worked to stay true to it's roots despite the evolving industry.

"It's hard to be a one - screen theater. It's hard with bookings. It's just hard all the way around but that's how dad found his niche in the 60's and 70's by playing independent films," she says.

Mahon says several people have shown interest in purchasing the theater. She hopes they keep it as a public theater to keep its history.

The last showing at the Varsity is December 30th. Mahon is still determining if she will host a special event at the theater during its final days.


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