711 Hennepin Avenue,
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When the Skyway 2 Theatre opened in downtown Minneapolis on October 3, 1972, it was the first new movie house built in over 40 years, and would be the last until the late-1990’s, as well. During its early years, it was part of the ABC Theatres chain.
It opened with “Deliverance” in Skyway 1, which sat about 975 and “The New Centurions” in Skyway 2, which sat just over 700. Skyway 1 originally had a small balcony, while Skyway 2 did not.
Unusually, the theatres were not on the street level of the building originally. The cinemas were on the second floor of the building, and named for the city’s once-famed Skyway system, a connecting series of pedways which linked many buildings in downtown Minneapolis.
During the 1970’s, the theatre often resorted to gimmicks to promote movies playing at the Skyway, such as when the adult film “Flesh Gordon” was playing there, and it’s star, Suzanne Field, appeared live to sign autographs in a see through top, or during the premiere of “Bugs Bunny Superstar”, patrons received a carrot with their tickets. A toga party was held in the lobby by college students during the opening night of “Animal House” in 1978.
However, the biggest stunt ever at the Skyway was when the movie “Ice Castles” had its world premiere there, and a stretch of Hennepin Avenue in front of the theatre was blocked off and turned into a temporary ice-skating rink. However, unfortunately, due to unusually warm weather for a Minnesota winter, the ice quickly melted mid-way through the premiere.
On March 28, 1975 a third auditorium was added on the same level as screen 1, and a fourth auditorium was built in former parking space in 1982. Two years later, the original Skyway 2 was twinned, and later that same year, the large original Skyway 1 was also twinned. The theatre was now a six-screen multiplex.
By this time, the Skyway was in falling into decline, and during the 1990’s had a reputation for being poorly run, filthy and dangerous. (During a screening of “Boyz in the Hood” in 1990, fistfights broke out, and outside the theatre, gunshots were fired, wounding seven people).
The Skyway 6 was mercifully put out of its misery in 1999, and with it, the era of Minneapolis' downtown movie houses ended as well. (Three years later, movies would return to downtown when the Crown 15 opened).
The vacant and decrepit former theatre is partly owned by two men, each with a drastically different view of the Skyway and surrounding block’s future. One owner sees the entire block being razed, with a luxury hotel replacing it, while the other sees a restored Skyway theater, perhaps used for art and foreign features. The future of the old theater still remains undecided.
By 2015 it had reopened as a live music/concert venue, which can accommodate audiences from 200 to 2,500 in its various spaces.
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