Minnesota Theater

36-40 Ninth Street South,
Minneapolis, MN 55403

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Minnesota Theater

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The Minnesota Theater opened in 1928 and was, at the time, the fifth largest theater in the country, with seating for over 4,000 in the huge auditorium.

It was designed by the Chicago-based firm of Graven & Mayger in the French Renaissance style. This firm also designed the Alabama Theater in Birmingham, Alabama and the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee among many others.

The three-story grand lobby was based upon the Sainte-Chappelle at Versailles, and contained a large marble staircase, rows of Corinthian columns with gilded capitals, and on the mezzanine, a grand piano played while patrons waited under an enormous crystal chandelier for the show to start.

The auditorium was even more impressive, with a large stage and a soaring proscenium arch decorated with intricate plasterwork. The ceiling was cove-lit, and the side walls also covered with gilded plasterwork. Sets of smaller chandeliers hung from the ceiling.

The seats on the main floor and balcony were uphosltered with velvet. Antique paintings and sculptures filled many of the public areas.

The exterior of the Minnesota Theater was the piece-de-resistance, its facade coated in various shades of white terra cotta, and topped by a spectactular domed tower at the theater’s corner entrance, with decorative polychromed terra cotta floral patterns all the way down its side. These were traced by lighting and illuminated at night, as was the dome.

The vertical marquee was eight stories tall, spelling out the theater’s name in huge white letters. The marquee over the main entrance was equally ornate, wrapping around the corner of the building, forming a triangular shape. Like the terra cotta on the tower above it, it echoed the floral pattern shape in its neon signage. The word ‘Minnesota’ was encircled by a stylized fleur-de-lys pattern, in shades of green and yellow.

Not long after the Minnesota Theater opened, the Depression began, and the theater began a roller-coaster ride of closings and reopenings that would last throughout the 1930’s and into the start of the 1940’s.

Despite this, it featured elaborate stage reviews, vaudeville acts, and motion pictures. In 1941, Disney’s "Fantasia" had its premiere at the Minnesota Theater, and ran for much of that year. However, once Disney left, the theater once again was closed.

It reopened yet again in 1944, however, renamed the Radio City Theater, after its new owner, radio station KSTP AM 1500, and continued to screen movies. Its original gorgeous signage, sadly, was removed, and replaced with a much less ornate, though still stylish, Streamline Moderne marquee.

In 1958, the Radio City Theater closed and the auditorium portion of the building was demolished. The remaining section of the theater converted into televison studios for years (though no longer used for this purpose, it is still standing and is use today). A parking lot and tire store were built on the site of the auditorium. Later, the parking lot became part of LaSalle Court (now Highland Bank Court).

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Neil Carlson

Recent comments (view all 21 comments)

docdoowop
docdoowop on November 26, 2008 at 11:37 am

Martin & Lewis…by far the most successful live act at the time…played the house in the early 50s and were a sensation.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on April 30, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Here is an item from the Fergus Falls (MN) Daily Journal dated 8/27/58:

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) â€" Radio City Theater has been sold to WCCO-TV and radio and will close as a loop movie showhouse Oct. 15. It is the largest theater in Minnesota with 4,000 seating capacity. The sale was announced Tuesday night by Minnesota Amusement Co., the owner of the building, and Midwest Radio-Television, operator of WCCO. Price was not disclosed.

rvarani
rvarani on April 6, 2010 at 10:03 am

“Damn Yankees” was the last film.

GailMarie
GailMarie on June 18, 2010 at 12:14 am

According to some, it was a victim of its own size; it would’ve had to nearly sell out every performance to turn a profit. But oh, what a magnificant theatre! Part of the arched window (in the former lobby area?) is still visible in the existing structure, if you look carefully.

WilliamMcQuade
WilliamMcQuade on February 26, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Is the lobby still here & intact? If so, what is it used for?

GailMarie
GailMarie on August 18, 2011 at 6:46 pm

WilliamMcQuade, the remaining part of the building that was the lobby is now KSTP Television; none of the original interior is intact. However, if you go to the following link and scroll through to the end, you can see the remnant of the theater exterior visible through the larger (third?) story window, at www.lileks.com/mpls/mntheat/index.html.

Supr8
Supr8 on January 14, 2012 at 12:39 am

The remaining portion of the theater was the home of WCCO-TV/4 until the station moved to 11th & Nicollet in 1983, after which the structure was converted to office space. KSTP-TV was never located here.

GailMarie
GailMarie on January 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Supr8, you’re right—I stand corrected.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith on May 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Click here for an exterior view of the Minnesota Theatre in 1930.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 8, 2012 at 8:24 am

Featured in “Minneapolis Under the Decree”: boxoffice

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