Century Theatre

38 S. Seventh Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55402

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Century Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The theater known best as the Century Theatre originally opened as a 2,000 seat vaudeville house called the Miles Theatre in 1908, but it only lasted six years before closing. It was designed by the architectural firm Kees & Colburn.

In 1915, almost entirely rebuilt, it reopened as the Garrick Theatre, and was far more elegant than the Miles Theatre had been. Not only did it feature vaudeville and other live stage shows, but motion pictures as well.

In 1920, it was acquired by the Finkelstein & Ruben circuit. The Garrick Theatre remained in business until 1928, when it was closed once more.

In 1929, the architectural firm Liebenberg & Kaplan drew plans for a new theater. The Century Theatre was built in the shell of the Garrick Theatre, and was even more ornate, and was proclaimed the most up-to-date movie house west of Chicago when it opened in September 1929. It sat a little over 1,600.

Its vertical marquee rose over 25 feet above the facade, and its marquee was ablaze with close to 4,500 lightbulbs. The interior was a stylish blend of French Renaissance and Art Deco.

However, the Depression hurt business at the Century Theatre, and it closed in 1931. It was open and closed a number of times more between 1931 and 1935.

For the remainder of the 1930’s and 1940’s, it played mostly second-run films which has previously had long runs at larger dowtown houses, as well as the occasional road show.

Again, the theater closed in 1954, for a massive remodeling project which transformed it into the Century Cinerama.

When it reopened, the Century Theatre would become only the eleventh theater in the US to show Cinerama films.

The Century Theatre was again gutted, and given a modern interior, and its seating again reduced, to 1,145. Its Cinerama screen was 72 by 28 feet.

The first picture, "This Is Cinerama" was a tremendous hit, and soon rivaled the State Fair as a tourist attraction!

It was estimated that the Century Cinerama brought millions to the Twin Cities' economy during the 1950’s.

In 1960, the Todd A-O process was installed, but Cinerama returned until 1963 when 70mm was installed for "Cleopatra", which would play the Century Theatre for over a year.

Another long run the following year of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" would be the Century’s swansong, and it was shuttered in late-1964.

Several weeks later, a fire broke out in the Century Theatre, and gutted it. It was demolished in February, 1965.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 6, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Anyone know what “the Forum” next to the Century was? Looks like an interesting building.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 6, 2009 at 2:34 pm

According to Wikipedia:

The Forum Cafeteria was a chain of economical cafeteria-style restaurants across America, founded around 1918. The Minneapolis site was at 36 South 7th Street. The owners of the Art Deco Strand Theater sold that property to Forum Cafeterias of America, Inc. in 1929. The building was extensively remodeled by removing the stage and making changes necessary to bring it in line with the needs of a cafeteria. When the Forum closed in the 1970’s, the space was used as a nightclub, Scotties on Seventh. After that enterprise closed, many of the furnishings were placed into storage when the building was demolished. The interior furnishings were rebuilt within the City Center complex and the space was used by Goodfellows restaurant.

Raises a question. Was the Century Theater built on the site of the former Strand Theater, or was it built next to the former Strand Theater building?

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 8, 2009 at 7:22 pm

The year given for this photo of the Garrick Theater is 1925 although the movie title on the marquee was released in 1919.

KJB2012
KJB2012 on August 31, 2009 at 8:55 pm

The Century was built next to the Strand theatre.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 29, 2009 at 4:45 am

The September 28, 1929, issue of the trade publication Movie Age said that the Century Theatre had been opened by the Publix circuit the previous Saturday.

The article said that the plans for the rebuilding of the former Garrick Theatre had been done by the architectural firm of Lieberman & Kaplan, but they must have meant Liebenberg & Kaplan.

devans326
devans326 on May 6, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Future home of the Miles Theatre (about 1908):
View link

The Miles Hippodrome (about 1910):
View link

The New Garrick Theatre (1925):
View link

The Century Theatre (about 1948):
View link

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 3, 2010 at 6:36 am

The photos linked in the previous comment show that elements of the original facade of the Miles Theatre survived through both of the major remodelings of the building.

A photo of the Miles Theatre from the trade journal The Western Architect, issue of December, 1908, attributes the design of the Miles to the architectural firm of Kees & Colburn, also architects of the Loring, Orpheum, and Pantages theaters in Minneapolis.

A later page of the magazine displays the original floor plan of the Miles Tehatre.

kjb2012
kjb2012 on September 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm

It’s been nearly half a century since the Century screened its last film, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, but it hasn’t been forgotten. During those five decades, the theatre burned down, an office building rose and was later razed to make way for City Centre, a downtown shopping mall which never really took off. But now the Hennepin Ave Theatre Trust, the folks who run the State, Orpheum and Pantages in downtown Minneapolis, are opeing the “New Century”. Located in inside City Centre, it will be a 300 seat, black box theatre. Although smaller and less grand than the old cinema, it’s good that the memory of the Century will live on in Minneapolis.

Redwards1
Redwards1 on February 22, 2014 at 2:10 pm

The Cinerama installation at the Century was highly successful. Orchestra and front half of the balcony were very effective for audience being put “in the picture”. The theatre’s moderate size was a factor. When I saw Cinerama in Chicago at the cavernous Palace, it was less sensational despite a larger screen.

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