Cooper Theatre

5755 Wayzata Boulevard,
St. Louis Park, MN 55416

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kencmcintyre on January 31, 2009 at 5:14 pm

This article was in Boxoffice magazine in August 1962:

MINNEAPOLIS-The first completely new theater to be beuilt here in 11 years, the Cooper, showplace of Cinerama, was opened to the public August 9 with “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” following a series of international premieres. The Cooper is an exact replica of the original built in Denver, which was designed specifically for Cinerama.

A walnut-paneled foyer of 3,000 square feet is decorated in black brick with bittersweet (burnt orange) upholstery fabric and a skyblue acoustic plaster ceiling. A circle pattern is also carried out in the carpeting.

Total seating in the theater, which cost $1,000,000, is 808, 146 of which are on the mezzanine. The screen is the largest ever installed-35 feet high with a 105-foot-wide side curve. The screen end of the theater is about a third of the total circumference of the circle, so that a full 180-degree picture could be shown if it ever were produced.

Senator and Mrs. Hubert Humphrey and trustees of the Cooper Foundation of Lincoln, Neb. entertained at a dinner on the 8th at the Radisson Hotel, and were hosts at the grand opening of the theater that night.

zimmee66 on January 15, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Great theater! When I was about 17, a friend and I decided to see “the Killing Fields”. No car, so we rode the bus from campus. It was a long ride, with many transfers. This was January 19, 1985. It was a HIGH of -9, and a low of -25 that day. I remember the bus driver pitied us and detoured a bit from her route to drop us closer. The movie was great, if distressing. On the way back, I watched my friends nose turn blue, and when I told him—he stepped behind the bus sign pole. Needless to say, it was not helpful. Good times!

cdwickha on December 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm

I still love that place, even though I haven’t lived in Minnesota in 17 yrs. I remember my senior year at Wayzata and my bro getting a special preview pass to see Rocky V. The movie was very weak but that place rocked. Here is a something I cam across in the Trib.
The Terrace theater was also a great place for a young stud to take a date.

April 24, 2008

The site of the Cooper Theatre now is occupied by an off-ramp for Interstate 394, but a new theater complex is about to be built close by.

Developers of the West End, a $400 million mixed-use project under construction at I-394 and Hwy. 100 in St. Louis Park, said Thursday that Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres has agreed to operate a 14-screen theater at the development.

The theater complex will occupy about 57,000 of 350,000 square feet of retail space planned for the project, being developed by Indianapolis-based Duke Realty Corp. The project also includes 1.1 million square feet of office space and an upscale hotel geared to business travelers.

The theater and the rest of the retail portion, which is being co-developed by Duke and Cincinnati-based Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc., is expected to be completed by September 2009.

Landing a theater was a top priority, according to Pat Mascia, senior vice president for Duke’s Twin Cities offices. Part of the reason is a movie theater’s ability to draw traffic for restaurants, shops and other retail tenants, he said.
“A movie theater complements the rest of the retail and makes it a more complete entertainment and shopping development,” Mascia said. No other retail tenants have been announced, but plans call for a specialty grocer and upscale stores and restaurants, he said.

St. Louis Park residents who went to public meetings when developers presented plans to the city also expressed a desire for a movie theater and evoked fond memories of the Cooper. Built in 1962, the Cooper and its 105-foot-long curved screen drew moviegoers from all over the Twin Cities area. It was demolished about 17 years ago when Hwy. 12 was turned into I-394.

Kerasotes is planning a state-of-the-art complex for the West End project, according to Bob Gallivan, director of real estate for the Chicago-based chain. The 14 theaters will range in size from 112 to 425 seats, and all will be digital, he said. Two of the larger theaters will have separate premium-seating areas that will be available for customers 21 and older.

The theaters will be designed to be used for events other than movies, including plays and concerts, he said.

The new St. Louis Park complex will be the fourth Twin Cities-area location for Kerasotes. It also has complexes in Coon Rapids and Inver Grove Heights and last year acquired the Block E Stadium 15 in downtown Minneapolis.

Susan Feyder • 612-673-1723

crooner15 on September 9, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Fantastic memories of the Cooper, it was a real event to go there for a movie. I can remember “How the West Was Won” played there for 88 weeks when it came out. The Cooper was the only theater around with Cinerama. In the 70s I remember seeing “A Bridge To Far” and the 80s I drove through a blinding snowstorm to see “Reds”. The Cooper always had exclusives.

pastorspomer on May 4, 2008 at 5:53 am

Thanks for the correction, It was a long time ago, and like Nomad said, “much was lost…”


Coate on May 3, 2008 at 10:35 am

Phil… The original “Star Wars” did not play at this theater; it played at ST. LOUIS PARK. Also see discussions on SOUTHTOWN and 30th anniversary.

mntwister on May 3, 2008 at 10:22 am

Correction on my comment (2 up)…I was referring to the 1978 reissue of Sound of Music, not the 1973 reissue.

pastorspomer on May 3, 2008 at 10:19 am

I saw the original “Star Wars” movie at the Cooper. I was taken there by friends, and I knew very little of what I was about to see. (this was in high school). We all sat in the front row, almost inside the big curved screen. What an experience! Wide-eyed I sat and watched the interstellar dogfights in what seemed like 3-D. I remember having to turn my head to follow the flight of the X-wing fighters as they zoomed by. I don’t get that kind of fun at the movies anymore.
Phil Spomer

mntwister on April 20, 2008 at 9:11 pm

This was one great movie theater. I am too young to have seen How the West was Won there but my good friend John Novak (who was a projectionist in Minneapolis and worked at this theater from time to time) and we went to see several films including “Testament,” “Star Trek 2” and Paramount’s “The Keep” among others. I am also told that the 1973 re-issue of “The Sound of Music” played here in 70mm, boy what I wouldn’t give to have seen that at the Cooper!

truffmonster on March 10, 2008 at 8:14 pm

I just stumbled onto this site and was thrilled to death. The first movie I saw at the Cooper was Airport I also had my first date there but I don’t remember the movie I do however remember the girl. I got my first job there in 1979 as a usher/doorman. I also worked concessions,ticket sales and asst. manager. I worked with many wonderful people (including bcv and the candy girl).In the early 80’s the fire inspector told us we had to clean up the clutter that had acummulated behind the screen so I do have a few souviners from my time at the cooper. I have the world premier poster from “A Bridge Too Far”,(yes the premier was held there but that was before my time), a ‘Please wait here for usherette" sign from when they had reserved seating, a few other one sheets and part of the old concession stand but that is no longer in my possesion. I did have a run in with the cooper ghost but I will leave that story for another time. I will check back often and hope to here other memories and stories from this wonderful theater.

Helen on February 17, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Thanks for your help. Peggy Hovde

Coate on February 16, 2008 at 3:40 pm

A check of the microfilm of the Minneapolis Tribune for Valentine’s Day 1976 indicates “Lucky Lady” was playing on the COOPER’s large original screen and “Three Days Of The Condor” was playing in the CAMEO auditorium.

Helen on February 14, 2008 at 9:44 am

My husband and I went there on our first date on Feb 14, 1976. How can I find out what was playing that night?

kenthebusdriver on January 1, 2008 at 7:32 pm

My memory of the Cooper was in 1962-63 when I attended “How the West was Won”. MY mom and aunt dropped me off downtown and I asked a police officer which bus to take to St' Louis Park. I took the bus to the area and had some time before the movie started. As I remember McCarthy’s restaurant was across the street from the Cooper. No McDonald’s in the area, not even White castle. I went inside, looked at the menu, and ordered a bowl of Ice Cream, which at 75 Cents was all I could spend. For a 14-15 yr old hayseed from Wausau WI, this was all a great adventure. The Cinerama experience was all I had imagined it would be, and if anyone cares anymore, I was there Ken Amundsen Wausau

raymueller on August 17, 2007 at 12:29 am

I have fond memories of the Cooper since I saw How the West Was Won there as a young kid, and later The Greatest Story Ever Told, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, 2001, and others, including (on my first date) Airport.

It has always been my favorite movie theater, but I didn’t realize that it and its sisters in Denver and Omaha were considered the best Cinerama venues until I read the Wikipedia article on Cinerama.

So I am saddened to also learn tonight that all three theates have been torn down. To Jesse or others interested in seeing one rebuilt: original blueprints are in a Denver library.

KJB2012 on August 13, 2007 at 5:57 pm

Yes, “A Bridge Too Far” did have its world preem here. Sean Connery attended.

revrock on July 27, 2007 at 8:04 am

Yep, the big theatre was untouched (not divided). The Cameo was added on to the side of the building. The Skyway theatre in downtown Minneapolis had a replica of the Cooper as one of its auditoriums that was eventually split into 2 smaller rooms; the balcony became one heatre and the main floor another.

dalerthomas on July 26, 2007 at 3:03 pm

The comment posted by noodleman on June 2, 2007 seems to be in error. By my recollection, the main room at the Cooper in St. Louis Park was never divided into two smaller screening rooms. On closing night in 1991, Dances With Wolves was playing in the original, full size, main theatre room. I saw DWW on the big curved screen at the Cooper during that run and the main theatre was not divided. On closing night, I attended Godfather Part III in the small shoebox theatre at the back of the Cooper.

One theatre in the area that did have the main house divided was the Edina. They created side by side bowling alley theatres that I think had only a single walking aisle down the middle. Eventually someone realized that mistake and gutted the interior to create what I think is five screening rooms.

Johnmichael on July 26, 2007 at 12:09 am

I too was saddened at the demise of the Cooper. At the time I heard it was being torn down so “they” could build an Olive Garden Restaurant.
What I’m wondering is: Did the world premier of “A Bridge Too Far"
take place at the Cooper?

jchristen on July 25, 2007 at 1:27 pm

I remember the Cooper Theatre well. Back in 1961/62 when I was 8 years old, some buddies and I peddled our bikes down Cedar Lake Road to the Cooper site. It was in pre-construction, grading phase, and the site was left with a huge, and I mean huge hole filled with water. Well for a month or so that site became our swimming hole. I guess it was more fun than Cedar Lake. Anyway, as I grew older and went to movies at the Cooper, I would brag and say I swam right here under the Cooper Theatre. I don’t think it got me any points with my dates, but I thought it was pretty cool! Greg or Bobby, I hope you read this. Jeff

Coate on June 2, 2007 at 8:53 pm

“How The West Was Won” was the second movie to play the COOPER. The grand opening of the venue was Aug. 8, 1962 with the debut attraction being “The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm.”

How The West Was Won premiered at the COOPER on Mar. 14, 1963 and ran for an insanely successful 88 weeks (second-longest run of the film in the U.S.).

noodleman on June 1, 2007 at 1:53 pm

Not sure if it was the first movie shown at the Cooper, but I still vividly remember seeing “How The West Was Won” in all its Cineramic glory (three projectors!) there in the mid-1960’s. The theater itself was carpeted, and there was a concession stand located in the middle of the theater where refreshments were served during the intermission.

By the time I saw “The Last Emperor” at the Cooper ca. 1987, the one large theater had been divided into two smaller screening rooms.

revrock on May 28, 2007 at 1:20 pm

I worked there for a few years in the 80’s. As BCV commented on, the smaller box-like theater was called the Cameo. You can imagine the dissapointment from moviegoers when a movie like “Glory” was being shown on both screens and they arrived, bought tickets, and were directed towards the Cameo instead of the big screen…ouch! I went there a few months after it closed and the SLP police had been using the Cooper Theater for training grounds. There were bullet holes everywhere, how depressing. Anyone remember the premieres we had? I once sold popcorn to Kirk Douglas at one of these.

Jesse Hoheisel
Jesse Hoheisel on December 12, 2006 at 5:00 pm

DThomas, any chance of linking or emailing those pics of the Cooper? Let us know….

dalerthomas on June 4, 2006 at 9:59 am

The Cooper Theatre was truly an amazing place in which to EXPERIENCE films. I was also there the night of the last showing… and offer a minor correction to one of the comments above. While it is true that “Dances With Wolves” was shown on the main screen on the final night, that was technically not the last film to screen at the Cooper. The Cooper actually had two theaters; the main, giant, curved screen AND a little shoebox-style, standard, flat screen in the theater out back. (This was in the days when multi-plex meant TWO screens.) On closing night, I attended the late showing of “The Godfather – Part III”, which was actually the last screening at the Cooper Theatre before it was dismantled and demolished.

I had already seen DWW at the Cooper, probably earlier that week. I remember that a group of college friends and I ended up in the very front row because that was the only large group of seats left where we could sit together. With the curved screen, it completely filled your field of vision! And when you read the subtitles in DWW, you had to rotate your head back and forth like you were watching a tennis match. This is not a complaint, by the way, just another great memory of one of my experiences at the Cooper.

On that last night, since I had already seen DWW, I decided to see Godfather III. Probably a poor choice on my part considering it was on the small screen. While DWW is 180 minutes long and Godfather III was only 162 minutes (imdb rocks), the minor theater got the later start time. So, when we exited the theater, the DWW crowd had already left the building. In fact, there was a crew of people already dismantling the theater fixtures. A group of people were trying to get a court order to keep the owners from destroying this landmark, so the owners wanted to get as much dismantled as possible before any court ruling took place.

Fixtures in the lobby were already removed and being loaded on a waiting semi-truck rumbling outside the main entrance. I remember wandering about on the sidewalk, disgusted at the speed with which they were destroying the place. I even recall that they already had the projector from the main theater on a dolly and were trying to load it on the truck. The crowd in the back theater was fairly small and some of us stood around discussing the obvious finality of the process.

I do have some pictures of the Cooper Theatre. Unfortunately, I think they are all exteriors after the closing and through the demolition process. I also managed to acquire a few bricks from the pile of ruble that the Cooper ended up as.

And a final note: The Cooper property was sold to an office supply chain and their big box store closed after only a few years in business (even though it is fairly close to a vast number of office towers). I doubt that my personal boycott of that store was responsible for its demise, but I like to think that maybe the ghost from the Cooper is still holding his ground. If the contracting company now on the site goes bankrupt, we can all believe in the Ghost of the Cooper.