Lyric Theatre

711 Hennepin Avenue,
Minneapolis, MN 55403

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rivest266 on January 15, 2017 at 10:40 am

Renamed Lyric on June 23rd, 1923 Grand opening ad at

Found on

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 23, 2016 at 8:36 pm

The papers of the Minneapolis architectural firm Kees & Colburn, part of the Northwest Architectural Archives at the Elmer Anderson Library of the University of Minnesota, include a set of blueprints for the Blue Mouse Theatre, dated 1920. I don’t know if Kees & Colburn had any hand in designing the house, or if the firm just acted as supervising architects for the out-of-town designer, Harry Lawrie. I do know that Kees & Colburn’s style tended toward Classical/Beaux Arts rather than the Gothic look of the Blue Mouse.

CJ1949 on September 18, 2012 at 4:31 am

The Lyric’s function through most of its life was as a move-over house. Calling it “second run” is not the best terminology to use. It was a move-over house for the larger Minnesota Amusement/Paramount Theatres. The Lyric’s first runs in the 40s and 50s were often lower-studio/B type of pictures. Otherwise it was a move-over house for the Radio City, State, Century theatres. By the 1960s, the State and the Lyric were the only Paramount houses left in the downtown, so the Lyric started playing more first runs of major pictures then. The Radio City closed in 1958 and the Century in 1964. Paramount had given up most of its neighborhood theatres by the end of the 50s to early 60s. The Lyric closed in January 1971 with the first run of “Rio Lobo” which was a Christmas release.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 15, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Around 1952, the Lyric Theatre got a new front in the modern style. Before and after photos can be seen on this page of Boxoffice for June 7, 1952.

devans326 on May 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Itswagon — I believe your quote applies to the original Lyric theatre (, which was across the street from this namesake.

itswagon on May 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Part of the Shubert properties.

“Opened in 1885 as the Hennepin Theatre for live performances, the theater became known as the Lyceum in 1905 and was remodeled and renamed the Lyric in 1908. Three years later, in September 1911, Roxy reopened the Lyric for the season, hoping to replicate the Alhambra’s success with film rather than dramatic plays.

Minneapolis would not succumb as easily (to motion pictures) as had Milwaukee. Motion pictures had already offended local reformers, while the city’s legislators looked upon movie theaters as dangerous fire hazards—or worse. “Everyone was antagonistic to pictures,” Roxy would later recall of his early days in Minneapolis, including the clergy, police, merchants, and the city’s educators…

For its reopening on September 18, 1911, Roxy installed a $2,500 pipe organ, a concert grand piano, and the all-women Fadette Orchestra of Boston. He also presented a variety of soloists along with the newly formed Lyric Quartet.251 The opening bill featured the films Sight Seeing in Boston, The Voyageur, The Ruling Passion, Captain Kate, and The Runaway Leopard (ca. 1911).252 All of this was provided for a ticket price of between 10 and 20 cents at the 1,700-seat theater—roughly the same cost as the city’s cheaper nickel and dime houses and dramatically lower than the Lyric’s prices when operated as a legitimate theater.253 Roxy’s new staff included footmen, pages, matrons, and female ushers who courteously assisted all patrons during the four daily hour-and-a-half shows.254 Roxy refurbished the Lyric Theatre as well, elaborately decorating the stage and screen. And with uneven projection in theaters across the city (and throughout the country), the Lyric’s daylight pictures were now intended to encourage repeat attendance, attract women, and boost perceptions. Elsewhere, palms, flowers, and an electric fountain prominently graced the entryway."

Melnick, Ross (2012-05-01). American Showman: Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, 1908-1935 (pp. 68-69). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition. Melnick, Ross (2012-05-01). American Showman: Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, 1908-1935 (p. 68). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm

An item in the September 13, 1919, issue of The American Contractor said that a new moving picture theater was to be built on Hennepin Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets in Minneapolis for the Blue Mouse Theater Corporation. The surprising thing is that the theater was being designed not by one of the well-known theater architects in the Great Lakes area, but by Harry Lawrie, whose office was in Omaha. Though Lawrie’s firm, Fisher & Lawrie (dissolved in 1913,) apparently designed the original Creighton Theatre in Omaha, and he drew plans for an Omaha house called the Princess Theatre in 1916, he was not known as a theater architect.

googoomuck on April 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm

I worked at the Skyway Theater from 1974-76 as an usher. I remember hearing about the Lyric Theater from a couple of older concession ladies who had worked there also. It’d be cool to see more pictures of the Lyric.

TLSLOEWS on February 7, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Great vintage photo Mary T.Thanks for posting it,love those 20 minute reels.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on February 7, 2011 at 6:40 pm

thanks Mary T.It was a different theatre business in Those days.When I started out as an Usher in 1974, I wasn’t allowed to step foot in the booth unless the Projectionist okayed it,by the time I got out in ‘83 we were stocking the booth with Drink Cups and using the Projectionists personal restroom;The managers that is.And it was Still Union,but it was coming to an End,GCC did keep the IA longer than the other chains in Augusta,Ga.

Mary T Manning
Mary T Manning on February 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

My grandfather was the projectionist at the Lyric Theatre until his death in 1963. I know he was a projectionist before his marriage in 1919, so it’s possible he was there since the beginning. He always referred to the theatre as the “Handsome Lyric”.
When he died, he had been napping, prior to going to work that night. When my grandmother found him, she called my father, also an operator, and he called the business agent, then raced to the theatre to get the show on the screen. The BA quickly found someone to cover that night’s shift, allowing my dad to get back to his family. Although that might seem odd today, the projectionists of their day took an enormous amount of pride in their work, and took their responsibilities very seriously. They truly believed that “the show must go on”.
A previous poster wondered if there was a roof garden in the early 20’s. A photo of my grandfather and another operator shows that to be very unlikely.

jws69 on February 4, 2011 at 6:22 pm

In my previous comments I said that lines would form along the building extending toward Eighth Street. I was incorrect in my streets. The lines would form toward Seventh Street. I do remember instances when the lines even wrapped arount at the corner and extended up Seventh Street.

jws69 on February 3, 2011 at 9:38 pm

I worked at the Lyric Theatre from 1968 to 1970 as both an usher and later as a floor manager. Friday and Saturday night crowds waiting for an evening performance would often line up against the buildings heading towards Eighth Street and, at times, the line would reach all the way down to Eighth. As an usher I would often be called upon to wear the doorman coat and cap and shout out information to the crowds as well as ensuring that the line being formed would keep in order.
Some of the movies I remember are: Wait Until Dark, The Love Bug, The Green Beret Which was controversial because of the Vietnam War, and the Devils Brigade.
Both the Lyric Theatre and the State Theatre were owned and operated by the same mother company. Whenever we ran short of ice we would grab a cooler and hustle over to the State Theatre to pick up an ample supply to meet the evening needs.
An interesting thing about the Lyric was that there was a tunnel which ran the full distance of the theatre under the auditorium. The tunnel began off of the deep sink room which was at the bottom of the steps leading to the Men’s Room on the left side of the lobby as you might approach the candy counter. The Women’s restroom was down the stairs to the right.
There was a stage which was covered by the projection screen. It was quite interesting to stand on the stage during a movie and seeing the projected movie from the back side.
The female employee dressing room was located in the lower level near the Ladies' restroom/powder room area. The usher’s dressing room was located at the rear of the balcony across from the entrance to the projection room. Near the usher’s dressing room was the ladder leading to the roof access hatch.
The Manager’s Office was located on the lower level on the Men’s Room side and was located at the end of the hallway. Next to the Manager’s Office door was a door which lead to a workshop used by the maintenance man.
Stairs on both the right and left side of the lobby led up to the balcony. A storage room on the right stairway where the stairway took a 90 degree turn before leading up to the balcony was used to store extra popcorn, candy, etc.
There was an outer lobby with a full line of glass doors along Hennepin Avenue, an inner lobby which was just past the point where the ushers took tickets, and the lobby surrounding the candy counter and gave access to the two double doors leading into the lower level of the seating area.
To the left of the ticket cashier’s office [Hennepin Avenue] was a set of double doors used for exiting the theatre. Another set of double doors led off from the right side of the building and came down a slight ramp to the Hennepin Avenue sidewalk.
I hope that the above helps to paint somewhat of a picture to bring back into the memory of some concerning the Lyric Theatre during the end of the 60’s.
The architecture, the decor, the marquees, the red carpets, the uniformed ushers, and all the rest that made up the experience of attending a theatre made the experience a splendid memory. Today, with the multi-screen theatres, cable TV, and DVDs, the theatre of old is something to be held as a true treasure.

devans326 on September 18, 2009 at 9:51 pm

According to the Web site, a Kilgen organ opus 3020 was installed in the Roof Garden (Blue Mouse) Theater in 1920. Is this a different theater? or did the Blue Mouse have a roof garden?!

I was an usher at the Lyric theater during the summer of 1965 while I was in college. I got to see “In Harms Way” starring John Wayne, “I’ll Take Sweden” starring Bob Hope, and “Cat Ballou” starring Jane Fonda, all first-run features. The exterior of the Lyric had been updated, so I didn’t realize what a beautiful building it had been in the 1920s. I wish I had paid more attention to the interior, which was nice, but certainly not palatial like the Minnesota/Radio City theater. There was a small, boarded over, orchestra pit, and a very small “back stage” area behind the movie screen — not enough room for any kind of a stage show.

EmptyWilliams on September 7, 2007 at 3:20 pm

I remember seeing science fiction movies and musicals at this theatre in the mid-to-late 50s (including a re-releaae of 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz”).

It was one of several movie palaces along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis at the time.

I also recall that the movie ads in the Minneapolis Star in the 1950s always seemed to group the Lyric, the State Theatre (in its previous existence as a movie theatre, before its massive refurbishing for live theatre) – and the Radio City Theatre in the same ad design. The Nile, Riverview and Terrace Theatres were also grouped together in their own specific advertising). One memory I have of their newspaper ads in the movie section was that their air-conditioning availability was prominently displayed in the form of icicles drawn over their theatre logo (same for the State and Radio City (Minnesota) theatres.

KJB2012 on July 12, 2007 at 12:03 pm

That is correct, the Lyric screened only first run films during the 1960-1971 period.

balconyboy on August 6, 2006 at 9:18 am

Some of the above info is incorrect. I cannot confirm for the earlier years, but from 1956 and on the Lyric was without question a first-run house. After the roadshow attempts of the late 1950s, the Lyric played first-run films all throughout the 1960s up to the day it closed, with the final show being “Rio Lobo”.