Ioka theater in Exeter

Some members of the Exeter Historic District Commission want the new owners of the Ioka Theater to leave the iconic marquee alone.

After sitting vacant for the past 12 years, Exeter’s historic Ioka theater has been sold.

The 105-year-old building at 53 Water St. sold Tuesday for $450,000, according to the listing on Ruffner Real Estate’s website.

Records filed at the Rockingham County Registry of Deeds show the property was sold to Ioka Properties LLC, a limited liability company formed on March 17 with an address in Newburyport, Mass.

Future plans for the building with its distinctive marquee were not immediately known.

Darren Winham, the town’s economic development director, said he was aware of the sale, but wasn’t involved and doesn’t know what the new owner plans to do with the building.

“Obviously I’ll be involved in the future because there are a lot of incentives that the town can provide and is happy to provide,” he said.

Florence Ruffner, owner of Ruffner Real Estate, said the new owner is an investment group.

“They don’t even know what they’re going to do. They don’t have their plans finalized yet,” she said.

Ruffner acknowledged the important role the Ioka has played in the community for generations.

“My kids grew up going to the Ioka. It is a landmark and I think whatever the group does they’ll do a nice job,” she said.

The Ioka is a downtown landmark that was built in 1915 for silent film and vaudeville and served as a local movie theater for decades before closing in 2008.

Kensington philanthropist Alan Lewis, the principal owner of Kensington Investment Company, bought the building for $600,000 at an auction in 2011.

He and many others in the community hoped to see the theater resurrected, but efforts failed and the building sat empty.

At one point, the theater was listed for $750,000 by Ruffner Real Estate.

Town records show the property is assessed at $590,100.

While he had no information about the planned use, Winham said he was excited to learn that the building had finally sold.

“Whatever I can do to help whoever bought it and make it prosperous and an asset to the community, I’m all in,” he said.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020
Tuesday, June 02, 2020