429 Excelsior Avenue,
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The Hopkins Theatre opened in 1941, just before America’s entry into WWII, and was built for Louis and Abe Engler in a then-boldly modern Streamline style by architect Perry E. Crosier.
The theater could seat 1,250, in orchestra and balcony levels. It was both elegant as well as high-tech for its time. The most impressive feature of the Hopkins Theatre was its 80 foot-plus tall rocket-like tower, which was illuminated by neon lights, spelling out the theater’s name. It could be seen for blocks around.
Other features included a waterfall-patterned red curtain, a sound-proof crying room for mothers with babies, and a set of smoking lounges. The theater cost about $125,000 to build, and was touted as the best new suburban house to open in the Saint Paul-Minneapolis area.
Opening night in October 1941 featured a live stage show and a movie, “Kiss the Boys Goodbye”, but it wasn’t until after the US entered the war that attendance began to pick up at the Hopkins Theatre.
The theater has the distinction of being the first Twin Cities area movie house to be twinned, in early 1971, when the 300-seat balcony was closed off and turned into the Hopkins 2, while the main auditorium became the Hopkins 1. A year later, an adjacent store was gutted and turned into a third auditorium. In 1981, a fourth screen was added when another store was taken over by the Hopkins Theatre.
The Hopkins Theatre also was one of the earliest suburban theaters to feature CinemaScope. For the 1977 film “Rollercoaster”, the management had Sensurround installed.
After more than four decades of entertaining suburban movie-goers, the Hopkins Theatre shut its doors in 1985 and was torn down soon afterwards.
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