Capitol Theatre

1077 Payne Avenue,
St. Paul, MN 55730

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Not to be confused with the downtown Capitol Theatre. The 400-seat Venus Theatre opened in 1915 and operated until 1929. In 1930 it was remodelled in an Atmospheric style to the plans of architect Jack J. Liebenberg and reopened as the Capitol Theatre with seating listed at 661.

The Capitol Theatre closed in 1978 and is still standing in other uses.

Contributed by Chuck

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

CJ1949 on September 23, 2015 at 8:25 am

The Capitol Theatre’s final closing was probably 1978, so it lasted far longer than 1950.

It was a Finkelstein & Ruben house; the circa 1930 remodel was a Jack Liebenberg project. The theatre was in the atmospheric style and was a Paramount neighborhood house until 1954, when it was let go, after the decree and the downturn of the early ‘50s. Martin Lebedoff acquired it then; it ran until April 1973. Then it was sold to porno kings Ferris and Edward Alexander, who wanted to show “Deep Throat”. There was a huge neighborhood protest, and the city council fought against it. In June however, a judge ordered the St Paul City Council to issue a license, but whatever manuevering went on behind the scenes, the Alexanders backed down and leased the theatre to David Levy, according to the Mpls Tribune of 7-28-73, who was also operating the Midtown Theatre in St. Paul. Hollywood product began to be shown again in Aug. 1973, “you asked for it — family entertainment.”

The following May, the newspaper advertising suggests that Levy’s tenure had ended and Alexanders may been the exhibitors of some soft X and R pictures. No advertising in the newspapers after May 20, 1974.

No advertising seen until May 1975 when the operation was taken over by Richard Ebensteiner, who was operating the Astor Theatre as well. A few classics were shown occasionally — Marx Bros., and W. C. Fields, and the Capitol scored a coup in Feb. 1976 when with one other theatre, got the first break of “Jaws” after the first run. “The only shark in Minnesota”. A frozen shark was displayed in the theatre, “directly from Sarasota, Florida — bring your camera.”

By April 1976, according to the Minneapolis Star, 6-4-76, Ebensteiner’s operation had suffered numerous break-ins and vandalism, and since the theatre was not doing well, he turned it back to Alexander, who in turn placed a display ad in the Minneapolis Star (6-3-76) selling the theatre, and to contact “Mr. Ferris.” There were also “For Sale” ads in the 3-21-77 and 4-4-77 issues of Boxoffice magazine.

There was some newspaper advertising for only a couple weeks in Sept. 1976 (Hollywood films); a kiddie matinee sponsored by a business association was held on Dec. 18, 1976. A neighborhood newspaper soon reported that Mark Schmitz had taken over the theatre.

Newspaper advertising was confirmed in March, April and June 1977, with the last ad 6-20-77 for “The Child” at 99 cent admission. A 6-15-77 St Paul Dispatch article showed indications that upcoming attractions were booked into July.

Nothing to be found in either St Paul paper until Bill Diehl reported on 2-15-78 that in a couple days Schmitz would reopen the theatre again. In his Boxoffice Magazine column of 2-27-78, he described theatre as being “open again”. No advertising could be found to verify this Feb. 1978 reopening and how long it lasted.

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