MALEK Theatre

October 29, 1946

Opening night for the newly constructed Malek Theatre!

Nearly one year after construction began and approximately $140,000, according to Dorothy, the new theatre earned the title of “Iowa’s Finest Theatre” and was ready to open for business. The newly named Malek Theatre was built entirely of concrete, stone, and steel. This fireproof design consisted of over 80,000 concrete blocks, concrete and steel floors, and steel I-Beams in the ceiling.

The display cases out front were lined with gold velvet velour plush drapes. You entered the front doors into the lobby where you’d find a beautiful hand-painted by California artist Merle Reed border around the top and a terrazzo, marble chipped, floor with a large red “M” right in the center. As you passed through the lobby you could purchase candy from the counter before entering the foyer through another set of doors. Thick, luxurious mulberry red and gold carpeting lined the foyer and both ramps leading into the auditorium. Before entering either ramp you could step down into the lounge where you would find the restrooms as well as a 20’x10′ aerial mural of Independence. This photo was taken by Ray Walton in an airplane flown by Mr. Bob Malek himself. The lounge was illuminated with indirect green neon lighting and decorated in grey, gold, and surf green. The curved walls of the ramps were illuminated with orange neon lighting on the ceilings with painted stripes along the bottom half. A wood handrailing followed the curve of the walls.

As you entered the auditorium you found yourself in the middle of the room with a stadium-style balcony above and a lower stadium-style main-floor seating area below. This stadium floor seating from the balcony to the front of the stage provided a clear view of the screen from all of the 862 seats. The concrete balcony walls were curved with the same radius as both the stage and rows of seats. They were painted with western-scroll and stripes, presumably by Merle Reed who painted the lobby border. There were two staircases to the balcony and both showcased curved banisters and curved pillars with backlit glass blocks.

In front of the lower seating area was a concrete stage, 32′ wide, 17′ deep, and 20′ tall. The front curved outward slightly towards the seats and included four stairs on both ends. The stage curtains were surf green with gold velvet curtains in front of them and a gold valance.

Above the balcony were three separate rooms, a projection booth, a crying room, and a party room. The projection booth was equipped with two post-war Motiograph projectors. This room boasted a metal door and mechanical fire containment system. Additionally, a buzzer system was installed to allow for communication between the projection room and the first floor. On one side of the projection booth was the crying room. This completely soundproof room was a haven for parents with small children. The large soundproof glass window and speakers allowed the parent(s) to continue to enjoy the show while tending to their fussy child. To the other side of the projection booth was the party room. Yet another completely soundproof room that would accommodate groups of 15-20 people who could privately view the show through the large soundproof glass window.

Tickets for opening night were $1.50 and were sold by the Chamber, various clubs and organizations, and local stores across town. The first performance was scheduled for 7:15 p.m. followed by a second performance at 9:15 p.m. The lobby, foyer, and lounge were lined with over 75 bouquets of flowers from local merchants. The program included Ann Moline who was an organist at radio station WMT, Dave Townsend and his dance orchestra, a live opening ceremony broadcast over KXEL, and Arthur Brayton as master of ceremonies from Des Moines. The feature film for the night was “It’s Great to be Young.”