The fire that started in the projection’s booth in the State Theatre in Washington, Iowa has resulted in the closing of the “oldest continuously run movie theatre in the entire world,” according to the Nov. 18, 2010, edition of the Washington Evening Journal.
Washington Fire Chief Tom Wide stated the fire started at approximately 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, in the projection booth on the second floor. The Washington Safety Center, the Journal stated, stated the fire started from a “discarded cigarette butt.” The local newspaper reported that Dick Shepherd, the State Theatre’s manager, said someone had been cleaning the theater before 9 a.m.
Within a few minutes of the arrival of fire teams from various crews from across the region, reporters for local television media were also quick to arrive, including a local affiliate of Fox News. By 10:30 a.m., Shepherd was out in front of the disaster, doing interviews with black streaks running across his cheeks.
Southeastern Iowa, no stranger to its cultural amenities going up in flames over the past century, can now include the building that opened as The Grand Opera House in 1893 as part of that list. The three-story beige-brick building started showing motion pictures in 1897 and changed its name to the State Theatre in 1930.
During the various visits through town, many, many people were saddened to hear of this news, and how it changes their holiday plans for the season. In fact, by the following day, news of the event was on the lips of just about everyone. Quips included "Well, here come the building huggers," as well as another group, presumably of that aforementioned sub-culture, who hoped the resurrected new theater, once repaired, might be ready for more adornment on the exterior. It is, in fact, especially considering the guilded age during which it was built, a rather stoic structure.
The movie that was featured during the week of the fire was “Megamind.”