What Cheer Opera House

201 N. Barnes Street,
What Cheer, IA 50268

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What Cheer Opera House (Official)

Additional Info

Architects: J.J. Gordineer

Functions: Concerts, Live Performances

Previous Names: Masonic Opera House, Tic-Toc Theatre

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What Cheer Opera House

The Masonic Opera House was built in 1893 and is listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook with 500 seats. It was partially destroyed by fire on November 6, 1947. It was renovated and reopened in early-summer of 1948 as the Tic-Toc Theatre. The name was later changed to the What Cheer Opera House which is listed in the 1940 Film Daily Yearbook with 500 seats. The Masonic Opera House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 (#73000733).

The What Cheer Opera House is used for concerts and live performances. Current seating is 383 on the main floor and 217 in the balcony.

Contributed by Ridgewood Ken

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on August 14, 2013 at 10:53 am

Under What Cheer, Iowa in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide is the “New Masonic Opera House”. Peter Flaherty was Mgr; there were 850 seats. The proscenium opening was 24 feet square, and the stage was 24 feet deep. The theater was on the ground floor. There were 3 weekly newspapers, and the hotels for show folk were the Smith and the Lydell. The 1897 population of What Cheer was 5,000.

Chris1982 on November 19, 2014 at 2:13 am

Architect: J.J. Gordineer

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 1, 2023 at 6:44 pm

What Cheer’s theatrical history appears to be richer and more complex than even local people remember. An article datelined What Cheer and headed “What Cheer is Rebuilt and Renamed Tic-Toc” appeared in Boxoffice March 20, 1948. The article said that the theater had been destroyed by a fire on November 6, 1947, but the building had been renovated and the theater and would soon open with 300 new seats, new carpeting, and new sound equipment, plus a nursery for children.

It was to be called the Tic-Toc Theatre and would be operated by the son and daughter-in-law of Mrs. Dorothy Fritz, who had operated the What Cheer for the previous eleven years. The FDY continued to list the What Cheer Theatre, with 225 seats, in its 1949 and 1950 editions, but the name Tic-Toc appears in a few items in trade journals over the years, the last being an item about the closing of the house which was published in the May 22, 1978 issue of Boxoffice. That means the Tic-Toc had a run of thirty years, on top of whatever time it spent as the What Cheer Theatre. One particularly interesting item, in The Exhibitor of November 7, 1951, said “Richard Fritz, owner, Tic-Toc, What Cheer, Ia., purchased the Masonic, What Cheer.” Mr. and Mrs. Fritz still owned the Tic Toc when it closed in 1978.

The history on the Opera House web site doesn’t mention a 1947 fire, or any alternate names for that theater, saying only that it operated as a movie house from sometime in the silent era until 1953. It seems strange that a town as small as What Cheer would have had two movie theaters in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but that’s what the evidence so far seems to be pointing to to: the Masonic Opera House and the What Cheer/Tic Toc were two different theaters.

SethG on November 2, 2023 at 8:57 am

What Cheer was a coal mining area, and has had a rather catastrophic decline. Downtown is quite attractive, but things are falling apart, and there are a lot of vacant lots. It was never very large, but I think it was the ‘market town’ for the area.

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