Facelift for Elkader Cinema

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By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

Elkader Cinema owners Lee and Diane Akin are closing their doors November 2. Not for good, of course. Just long enough to give the theater a much-needed makeover.

The theater is getting a new screen, new carpet and paint in the lobby, and two more channels for audio. The biggest change, however, will be the seats. The current commercial-grade plush chairs, which are about 30 years old, will be replaced with state-of-the-art reclining theater seats. This is the product the couple had installed in their Ames theater to rave reviews.

“Our current seats are still pretty comfortable but we knew they could be improved,” Lee said. “This seemed like a good time to do that. We’ve been open now for 15 years and decided it was time to make some improvements.”
Lee hopes the work will be completed by November 16. And while nothing is set in stone, Lee’s been working on something special for the re-opening. He’s also looking ahead to a busy holiday season that will feature several blockbusters like The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch and Ralph Breaks the Internet.

Coinciding with the renovations, the theater will move from general seating to reserved seating.

“This means when you buy a ticket you will be buying a specific seat like you would at a baseball game instead of getting seats on a first come-first served basis,” Lee explained. “Since these seats are so much larger our seat count will be cut roughly in half. We expect to sell a bunch more tickets online than in the past but you’ll also be able to buy tickets at the box office.”

The Akins, formerly of Cedar Rapids, traveled to Northeast Iowa on a late winter weekend 15 years ago for Guttenberg’s annual Eagle Watch. When that didn’t pan out, they looked for other things to do. Thumbing through an old phone book, they discovered that Elkader had a movie theater. When they arrived in town, they found the theater had ceased operating.

“The very day we came here, a ‘For Sale’ sign went up,” Lee said in an earlier Register interview. “So, we walked across the street to the Realtor’s office, mostly on a lark.”

The rest, as they say, is cinematic history. The couple gave up their home and careers, and move to Elkader in November 2003. They have since purchased theaters in Prairie du Chien and Ames.

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