Chief Theater

325 Bush Street,
Red Wing, MN 55066

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Chief 1939

The Chief Theater opened in January 1939.

Most recently, the former Chief Theater building had been used as a club called the Coliseum Sports Bar & Dance Club.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

kencmcintyre on June 7, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Some then and now photos are on this page:

TLOLSON on August 26, 2010 at 9:10 pm

The Chief was built by Walter E. Koehler and partners in 1938 and opened in January 1939. Its initial purpose was to absorb the Sheldon Auditorium’s block-booked B films and show them bargain rates (15 cents). In 1946 John Wright, the Auditorium’s former manager, purchased the Chief and entered into a partnership with Eddie Ruben of Welworth Theaters to jointly operate the Chief and another Red Wing theater, The Metro. Under that arrangement the Chief began showing A features while the Metro became primarily a B and western house. Wright closed the Chief in 1960 amid a long and bitter lawsuit with the city. See my recent book, Thomas Olson, “Sheldon’s Gift: Music, Movies and Melodrama in the Desirable City,” North Star Press of St. Cloud, 2009.

TLOLSON on August 26, 2010 at 11:50 pm

The Chief closed in June, 1960 and was purchased from Jack Wright by Mr. and Mrs. Willis Menge, who had operated theaters in North Dakota, in 1965. The Menges did a lot of work—new seats, carpet, concession stand. They renamed the theater the “Red Wing.” They couldn’t reach a film-sharing agreement with Jim Fraser ,who leased the Auditorium and already owned the Drive-In, so they found themselves in a destructive bidding war with him for ever-decreasing film product. (That, BTW, was Wright’s issue all along). The Menges couldn’t compete and sold out to Fraser, who promptly renamed it the Chief, in 1967. In my research I located only one early photo of the Chief—from opening week in 1939. Its a scan from a nighttime newspaper photo. It’s not great. I’d love to see a good 1940’s photo and especially photos of the interior with its “Indian blanket” carpeting and murals. I’d hoped that publication of my book might elicit something—but nothing yet.

TLOLSON on August 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm

James Fraser sold the Chief to Rogers Cinema of Marshfield, WI in 1985—Rogers did the multiplexing. Rogers sold it to Essaness in 1987. A year later it was bought by Excellence. Carmike bought the Excellence chain in 1994. My information is that Carmike closed the Chief in 1995 when the small multiplex opened at the Burnside mall. I believe that Carmike itself was in the midst of a bankruptcy reorganization at the time. I do not know who the current owner is.

jcldkcmo on September 28, 2011 at 6:46 am

Actually Essaness and Excellence are the same company. Essaness became Excellence after they divested the theaters they ran in Chicago. I worked at the theatre from 1985 – 1990.

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