The History of the Capitol Theatre
The Historic Capitol Theatre is located in the Hotel Maytag Building on First Street on the Square in Downtown Newton. It was built in 1928 by Fred Maytag who was the founder of the Maytag Washing Machine Company. At that time the theatre was considered to be one of the largest in Iowa with a total of 995 seats. George Hundling was hired by Maytag to run the Capitol, and back in those days “talking” pictures didn’t exist, so the Hundling Family Orchestra provided music for movies shown at that time. George's son Dorman Hundling played clarinet, son Lloyd played trumpet, daughter Carol played violin, daughter Lois played the organ and piano, and George played cello, and his wife Helen played xylophone.
Other members of the orchestra were hired from the area to fill in the parts that weren’t played by the Hundlings. By 1929 the first of the “talking and singing” pictures were being shown at the Capitol and the orchestra disbanded in the early 1930's. By the mid 30’s the theatre was advertising on it’s marquee “Air Conditioning” as one of the first movie houses to have AC.
Dorman Hundling took over the management of the Capitol in 1948, after the death of his father, George. Around that time a new larger Marque was added. In the 1960's the platter system was developed. Rather than playing the first movie reel on one projector, and the second movie real on the other, and then swithing back and forth, a single platter could hold the entire movie with all the reels spliced together. Movie theaters no longer needed 2 projectors to play one movie. So Dorman paid to have the theatre “twinned” in 1988 so they could play 2 movies, and get first run movies quicker to compete with the Des Moines market. Dorman retired from the business in 1993 and his assistant manager Cheryl Moredock to over management until 2000.
The Capitol was operated by a few different theater chains during this next time period. It was part of the Central States Theatres chain, and was operated by the independent Dream Star Cinemas chain, and Big Time Cinemas. In late 2012, the owners of the Capitol theater had financial issues, and Dawn and Paul Bleeker took on the operation of the theater. At that time it was still using 35mm film projection equipment. However, in November of 2014, to keep up with technology advancements, the Bleekers converted both theaters from 35mm projection to digital projection, along with new sound equipment and screens.
Just before taking over the theater in 2012, The Bleeker's convinced the Newton City Council to allow pigs as pets, and acquired a pet minipig named Joy. Since they were spending a great deal of time revamping the theater, Joy came along, and soon became the theatre mascot. She now has her own "Diva dressing room" in the front of the theatre, with a big picture window so people can stroll by and greet Joy. During warmer months, Joy will frequently do tricks for guests between shows, out under the marquee. Check out Joy's Page for more details, and like Joy's Facebook page if you want to keep up on all of her travels and antics. If you are coming for a visit, and would like to meet Joy, please contact us in advance.
The Maytag Hotel and Theatre is currently going through a major remodel and restoration project. As of Friday, Nov. 9th 2018, The Capitol Theatre was remodeled and was reopened for business. The Theatres and Lobby were restored back to their original grandeur, with very ornate mouldings, and original fixturing throughout. Modern Luxury Recliners and Rich Rockers were installed on the main floor. The movie screens were expanded a full 3 feet, making them nearly wall-to-wall. And the sound system was upgraded to Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound. The Concession Stand was also totally remodelled allowing for a wider variety of beverage choices, as well as the ability to serve more food items. The balconies will also be remodeled, as well as the marquee. Both should be completed in early spring 2019, making the Capitol Theatre complete. We will add new pictures as each area is fully completed.