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Des Moines moviegoers say goodbye to single-screen theater

December 31, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Des Moines’ last single-screen movie theater, which fans said was known for playing movies “that make you think,” has closed after 80 years.

The Varsity Theater was packed during its final screening on Sunday, more than eight decades after the theater opened on Christmas Day in 1938, The Des Moines Register reported .

Theater owner Denise Mahon said the turnout touched her heart. She’d announced the closure in November, citing plans to undergo knee replacement surgery.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, but it’s been great to see a lot of customers who have been coming for years and years,” she said.

Mahon took over running the theater after her father, B.C. Mahon, died in 2009. She decided to play one of her father’s favorite films, “Cinema Paradiso,” for the theater’s final showings because she said it shows the importance of cinema.

“I think films can convey a message and bring a community together when you are in a big auditorium and the lights go down,” she said.

Theatergoers say the Varsity Theater was known for playing movies that were more unconventional, such as independent and foreign films. Sharon Gee, who attended the Sunday screening, said the movies “are a little bit unusual.”

“My father took pride in showing movies ‘that make you think,’ and I have tried to emulate that since his death in 2009,” Mahon said.

Mahon said she’s received some offers for the theater, but she’s taking her time finding new owners who will carry on the theater’s legacy because “it’s the last of its kind.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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