KRNT Theater

2016 - Venues/Ballrooms

When the Shirne Temple Auditorium at the southeast corner of 10th and Pleasant streets was built by Za-Ga-Zig in 1927, it was the largest threater in the Midwest and one of the largest in the world, with a seating capacity of 4,139. Its domed ceiling contained tiny lights designed by an astronomer to duplicate a summer night’s sky. The copper dome on the outside of the building was reminiscent of the eastern influence of the Shrine.

With the Depression came financial difficulties for the owners, which resulted in the building being leased to the Moose Lodge for several years. In the fall of 1935, WHO Radio “The 50,000 watt Radio Voice of the Middle West” moved its “Live” radio broacast show, “The Iowa Barn Dance Frolic,” to the auditorium venue, where the 4,200 seats were filled every Saturday night. The SRO (Standing Room Only!) sign hung out on more than one occasion, to take care of the crowds that wanted to come and see the “Live” radio broadcast of their favorite entertainers, performers, musicians and announcers.

In 1946, Cowles Broadcasting Company bought the building and re-named it the KRNT Radio Theater. The “Radio” was later dropped, but the auditorium enjoyed some of its best years following World War II as national and international entertainers came to the city to appear on its large stage.

Known earlier as “Death Moines” by vaudvillians who appeared to sparser audiences, the place later flourished in the days when KRNT Radio, the Des Moines Register, and Tribune newspapers, all owned by the same company, were able to promote programs at the theater such as, “The King and I” featuring Yul Brynner and “Hello Dolly” with Carol Channing. Big bands including Fred Waring, Tommy Dorsey, and Xavier Cugat also graced the stage of KRNT. Singer Eddie Fisher appeared before a crowd so “small” that tickets had to be given away, but in the mid-1960’s the theater enjoyed success with bands such as the Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel, both of which played for a full house. Additional rock and roll acts that performed at KRNT Theater include greats like The Doors, Chicago, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King and more.

Honoring achievements, educating youth, and inspiring artists.

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