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In the 1950s little Iowa City had an amazing five theaters downtown, all located within about a block of each other between Washington and College streets. Of these the Capitol seemed most humble despite its august name. I recall that it showed an odd mix of cheap kiddie fare such as the classic clunker The Giant Claw, and foreign “art” films. Because of this eclectic programming I saw one of the most stunning film scenes of my young life. I was at the Capitol to see some forgotten kids' film when the projectionist ran trailers of coming attractions, one of which featured two nude women running out of a forest and across a beach before plunging into a lake. Other films I recall seeing at the Capitol are The Brave One (1956) and a re-release of Disney’s So Dear to My Heart. When my family returned to Iowa City in 1963 the theater had been torn down, the first of the city’s five theaters to disappear.
Davenport City Directories from 1914 thru 1921 list the Casino at 213 W. 3rd Street, sandwiched between the German Savings Bank (later the American Commercial and Savings Bank) and the Family theater. The Casino is the first Davenport theater I know of that was operated by Abe Blank who arguably would be the most important exhibitor in the city’s history. Blank promoted his theater heavily in the Daily Times newspaper to the extent that there was a noticeable drop in live theatrical news in the Times after the Casino opened, and a corresponding increase in movie news in the paper’s entertainment pages.
In Davenport City Directories of 1913 thru 1933 the Davenport theater is listed at 1129 W. 3rd not far from the s.e. corner of 3rd and Marquette. This is one of only three neighborhood theater buildings I know of still extant in Davenport. A former West End resident once told me that some in the neighborhood referred to this theater as “Dingbats” but he did not know the story behind this odd name. Does anyone remember? Location of this theater was unusual, sort of halfway between the Downtown and the West End theaters located on or near Cedar St.
In Davenport City Directories of 1930 thru 1949 the theater at 1411-13 Harrison is listed as the Uptown. In directories of 1951 thru 1984 it is listed as the Coronet. Julius Geertz, the king of Davenport neighborhood theaters, owned the Uptown. In March of 1951 Mr. Geertz sold the Uptown to Ernie Pannos and his associates, chief of whom was Jim Stopulos. Mr Stopulos made this theater locally famous as a venue for foreign films, but he also screened Hollywood features and his big triumph was his 62-week run of The Sound of Music. When I was a boy I went to the Coronet to see films like the Brit comedy The Baby and the Battleship, the Disney nature documentary Jungle Cat, the Three Stooges compilation film Stop! Look! and Laugh! hosted by Paul Winchell, the Brit horror film Village of the Damned, and many more. Thank you, Jim!
Theaters listed in Davenport City Directory at 1518 Washington are Smallfield 1914-15, Eagle 1916-28, Northwest 1929-33, Washington 1936-40, Times 1941-49, Town 1951. In March 1951 Daily Times news story it says that Ernie Pannos and Jim Stopulos were operating their Coronet theater at 1518 Washington since Jan 12, 1951 but would transfer their activities to the Uptown at 1413 Harrison. Pannos was quoted referring to the Uptown as the “new Coronet”. The theater on Harrison would be locally famous as the Coronet and today few remember that the theater on Washington was ever called the Coronet for a few weeks before it closed.
Beginning in the 1914 Davenport City Directory a theater, the Deluxe, is listed at s.w. corner of W. 4th and Cedar. Next the People’s is listed at same address. Then in 1917 thru 1940 directories the Zenith is listed here at 326 Cedar. Finally the Sunset is listed at 326 Cedar from 1941 thru 1957. Davenport Democrat newspaper article of Jan 7, 1959 mentioned that Sunset ceased to operate on Oct 29, 1958.
The Elite is listed in the Davenport City Directories of 1907 through 1915 at 309-11 W. 2nd. This was a vaudeville house and film theater that opened circa 1904 and in the fall of that year they screened the historic early film The Great Train Robbery.
In Davenport City Directories the theater at 215 W. Third is list as the Family from 1907 to 1929. In the directories of 1933 to 1963 it is listed as the State. No listings in the 1930 to ‘32 directories.
In Davenport City Directories from 1909 through 1918 The American is listed at 324 W 3rd St. This theater was torn down to make way for the erection of the Kahl Bldg. The Kahl originally was a large office building which also housed the Capitol, an opulent theater boasting more than 2000 seats. A local newspaper article once claimed that the American was later the Col, a ballroom on W 4th St. This misunderstanding is probably due to the fact that Col and Kahl are homonyms.