There’s no grander experience than watching a modern-day movie in a restored opera house in small-town Iowa. Plush, velvet curtains usher in the films just as they did decades ago when they introduced the next act. Understanding the history of these popular gathering places makes the movie-watching experience all the better. In Iowa Falls, an historic theater boasts an especially interesting story.
A man named Eugene Ellsworth built the Iowa Falls Metropolitan Opera House and opened it two days after Christmas in 1899. The Met, as it was commonly known, could seat up to 800 people per show. The stained-glass windows welcomed guests and white marble detailing foreshadowed the extravagant affair they were about to witness. Opera singers, nationally renowned bands, and several other performances graced the stage of The Met during its peak.
Movies eventually replaced live performances, and during several transitions of ownership, The Met fell into disrepair. Iowa Falls resident John P. Whitesell eventually bought the landmark building and renovated it to become the community’s movie theater, reopening it in 2013.
During renovations, a beautiful mural on canvas was discovered and accidentally discarded. Fortunately, it was rescued from the dump, restored, and now hangs at the theater’s entrance. Crews divided the building into two screening rooms to remedy a collapsing ceiling. Today, towering archways and ornate chandeliers remind visitors of the building’s storied past. Hollywood star Hugh Jackman attended The Met’s grand opening to debut his movie, “Prisoners.” His family joined him for the event and enjoyed the area, including the Calkins Nature Area, located just outside of Iowa Falls.
Next time a blockbuster hits the big screen, make plans to experience it at The Met.
Pssst… on Wednesdays popcorn is free!