A historical treasure of Hamburg Iowa since 1921!
1120 Main St Hamburg, IA 51640
The Colonial Theatre Board:
Richard Mundinger, President
Jodi Hendrickson, Secretary
Heidi White, Treasurer
Colonial Theatre Facebook Page
History of the Theatre
Theater’s rich history serves Hamburg well
By John Ferguson Special to the Reporter Nov 7, 2018
In this day of mega-plex theaters, cellphones, Netfix, Hulu and $10 buckets of hot buttered popcorn, how outdated are two dollar movies, one dollar Cokes, dollar bags of popcorn and dollar candy bars?Have you taken your family to a movie in Omaha, Council Bluffs or Lincoln lately? And by lately I mean the past five or ten years? I can’t remember the last time my wife Hallie and I went to a movie in one of the big cities, but I do recall thinking, “These prices are ridiculous, even scandalous.” How, I wondered, could the average family of four afford to take in a first run movie in the big city? And the answer is, of course, they couldn’t, without shorting themselves in other more important areas. Which brings me to today’s chosen subject, Hamburg’s own Colonial Theater, which, incidentally, will soon be observing its 100th birthday. According to the Hamburg Reporter, in 1920, a young Hamburg businessman and native, Howard Colon, erected the theater at its current location. Mr. Colon opened it in 1921, showing the silent movie, “The Valley of Giants”. Ten years later, on January 9, 1930, to be exact, the first talkie was shown, “The Vagabond Lover”, starring Rudy Vallee. As time went by, of course, all movies were talkies and picture shows became the number one source of entertainment for all of America. At first these movies were all shown in black and white but in the mid-forties color took over and the black and white movie pretty much became a thing of the past. By the mid-fifties, all of the big time movies, the blockbusters, were done in color; Technicolor, it was called. At the Colonial, these blockbusters, as they were known, were shown on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night while other shows, of lesser acclaim and usually in black and white, were offered on Wednesday and Thursday and still another on Friday and Saturday. At the time, prior to the feature of the evening, there was a segment known as ‘Previews of Coming Attractions’, followed by the weekly newsreel and a color cartoon, often featuring Tom and Jerry, Mighty Mouse or Donald Duck. As for the theater itself, it was owned and managed by Mr. Colon, who took great pride in his business. He was quoted as saying, “We had one thought in mind, and that was to give the town a business house that would be a credit to the city”. And it certainly was. After Colon’s death, in 1953, the business was sold to Bick Downey, who made several improvements, including a cry room for parents of small children and rest rooms for the general public. Downey operated the theater for a few years, then sold it to another local businessman, Franklin Rash, who kept it going through some financially tough times. Rash eventually sold the Colonial to Leonard and Willey Thorpe, local residents, who opened a small bakery in the adjoining building just to the north, the office of the Graham Insurance Agency, This is the location currently occupied by the theater’s concession area. The concession area was first located in the lobby between the two front doors. Prior to that, the only concessions were located in what was known as Opie’s, a popcorn stand two doors to the south of the theater. Opie’s was owned and operated by a local guy, Stanley Opelt, who was totally blind and played the percussion sticks. Don’t know how he made change, but I’m pretty sure nobody paid with him with a five or ten dollar bill. After all, the price of admission to the show was sixteen cents and popcorn came in two sizes of bags, five or ten cents. Candy bars were a nickel and Opie didn’t sell pop. In 1979, the Thorpes sold the theater to Erman Mullins and it ceased to exist as a movie house. Mullins used the upstairs instead for a boxing venue for a few years and then the Colonial fell into disrepair and eventually closed completely. In 1989 Toots Vollertsen, chairman of Hamburg Economic Development, and some local businessmen began raising funds and purchased the Colonial from Mr. Mullins for $5000.00 to reopen the Colonial. It was refurbished and reopened on January 17, 1991, and the first Colonial gala was presented marking the culmination of more than three years work. The gala, titled “The Sound of Music”, was presented by local artists. The piano, played by Jerry Josephson, of Shenandoah, was from the old Oddfellows Hall and was donated by Don Clayton. The organ was played by Dorothy Jean Briggs. Marty Mincer played ragtime piano and the classical piano by Jo Davis. Marion Hodde and Ed Beam played organ and piano selections, and Marilyn Smith and Shirley Oakes played an organ duet. Duane Smalley played Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”.The first manager of the Colonial as it reopened was Judy Holliman, in 1992. Following Judy as manager was Pam Mundinger then came Jim Owen and present manager, Amy Barker. The current board members are Jodi Hendrickson, Richard Mundinger, Heidi White, Jessica Barrett and Merlin Neilson.These and many other people have helped the Colonial Theater become the only current movie house in Fremont County. The show times now are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. See you at the movies!