Royal Theater

1721 Hill Avenue,
Spirit Lake, IA 51360

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Discus on April 19, 2018 at 9:02 pm

My name is Don Van Wyk. When Darrel Steen was manager at the Royal Theatre I worked at both the theatre and the drive in, as a projectionist. The land Wal Mart is on was the drive in. Time frame was approximately 1961 to 1968. The Royal theatre really never had very large crowds. Seems like just enough to keep it going. I worked at the Royal thru high school and then when in college only at the drive in in the summers. The drive in would draw some good crowds but then at last it to tapered off. March purchased or leased, l don’t know which, the theatre in Milford in 1967 to selling it I don’t know when. I managed the Milford theatre for approximately 9 months in 1967 to February 1968 when I was drafted. By managing it I did the tickets, concession, and projectionist. Don’t ever remember a crowd of over a dozen. I was paid fifty dollars a week. The pay included free rent living in a very old house situated by the road in front of the Milford drive in on Hwy 71. Coldest place I ever lived. Water pipes froze up all the time. Then Darrel would come over with a blow torch to unfreeze them. I know of more people and some history if one wishes to inquire.

Chris1982 on September 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Spirit Lake had a second Drive-In called the Superior 71, it opened in 1951 and is stil in operation.

wonas on July 8, 2013 at 2:56 am

I ran the Royal in the early 70s, as well as the Drive-In down the road (now a WalMart of course). Milford is another small tourist town close by, and they probably did have their own theater way back. The Royal was owned by March Bros Theaters at that time, out of Wayne, NE, and also LeMars, IA (my home town). A Darrel Steen ran the Spirit Lake Royal for many years before me. The owners wanted me to buy this one, but everything was really old and decrepit and held together with baling wire. Huge crowds in the summer (tourist season), NObody in the winter, It ended as a combo theater/VHS rental oulet, then who knows? As I said, the drive-in (overlooking a nice homey cemetery) became a WalMART parking lot at some point.

Chuck, wondering what your interest is/was with this theater, and do you know more?

LouisRugani on March 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Could the ROYAL have been known as the MILFORD in an earlier life?
From the Spirit Lake Beacon, November 30, 1939:

The foreclosure of a mechanics lien case of the J. F. Anderson
Lumber Co., vs. E. C. Arehart and the Spencer Investment Co., has occupied the attention of the district court this week. The case is one growing out of an outside Neon sign salesman contracted to construct the new canopy and sign for the Milford theatre and failed to complete his job or pay the bills, and after making collections along left unceremoniously. The case is still being heard as the Beacon goes to press.