605 Hennepin Avenue,
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Not to be confused with the similarly-named Astor Theatre, another downtown house which was better known as the Riviera Theatre, the Aster Theatre was a 900-seat theatre which was much simpler than the Riviera Theatre.
It was opened in 1916, and designed in Neo-Classcial style, with an auditorium that had murals on its side walls depicting scenes from the French countryside between sets of arches. A set of chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and it contained one of the largest pipe organs in Minneapolis, prior to the building of the large palaces a few years later.
In its early years, the Aster Theatre was the place to see the latest Charlie Chaplin comedy, being the exclusive Twin Cities theater to premiere Chaplin’s films.
By 1926 it was operated by the Finkelstein & Ruben chain. The Aster Theatre was wired for sound in 1929, later than most of its larger neighbors, but when it was, it was said to have some of the best acoustics in Minneapolis. Around the same time, it was modernized, and received a new marquee, lit up with hundreds of light bulbs, as well as new carpeting and projection equipment.
In order to keep up with the ever-larger and more extravagant movie palaces up and down Hennepin Avenue, starting in the mid-1930s, the Aster Theatre featured many gimmicks to draw in patrons, including a double bill of “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” in 1938. The Aster’s management offered $25 to any young woman who could sit all the way through both movies.
Second-run and double features in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s gave way to adult movies by the late-1960’s and 1970’s, and the Aster Theatre became one of the most well-known adult houses in the city. By the time it closed in 1979, the Aster Theatre was just another seedy, run-down porno house. It has since been demolished.
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