Terrace Theater

3508 France Avenue N,
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

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Terrace Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

When it opened in 1951, at the beginning of the television era, the 1,300-seat Terrace Theater in Robbinsdale was the first (and largest) suburban movie house to be constructed in the Minneapolis area since the end of WWII. It was also the final indoor movie theater to be designed by architectural firm Liebenberg & Kaplan. It was opened for Sidney and William Volk (who also operated the Riverview Theater, Nile Theater and Camden Theater) at a cost of over $600,000, one of the most dramatic and elegant movie palaces built since the 1920’s in the Twin Cities.

The Terrace Theater was built on a small hill, overlooking a sprawling landscaped area, with a huge parking lot, with room for more than 1,000 cars. The International-style theater’s exterior was made up of a series of rectangles, with the only vertical one serving as a tower-like marquee, topped by the theater’s name in bold letters, visible from both highways the theater sat between.

The Volks spared no expense in making the Terrace Theater the most luxurious, comfortable and up-to-date theater in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul. Like the palaces of two and three decades before, it contained a good-sized auditorium, sweeping foyers, a large lobby space, but with the casual look of an upper-middle class 1950’s home, complete with a sunken “garden style” lounge containing plant boxes and a huge copper fireplace. Overlooking the rolling lawn outside on the far end of the lobby was a wall of floor to ceiling windows.

One unusual and very popular feature of the Terrace Theater was its television room, complete with sofas, chairs and a large color television. It was common for husbands and fathers to watch a ball game here while their wives watched a romantic tear-jerker or their children the latest Disney offering.

In the 1970’s, the Terrace Theater had 70mm equipment installed, and became one of the best of the suburban theaters to see the big action-filled blockbusters of that decade, which were better appreciated on a huge screen.

During the late-1980’s, the Terrace Theater was triplexed. Unfortunately, this rare 1950’s movie palace has been shuttered since 1999, its fate still undecided.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 48 comments)

alysiadavid on February 26, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Community support to save this great theater is increasing. Check out the Save The Terrace Theater, Robbinsdale MN group on Facebook for updates on the efforts to save this landmark!

dmr2701 on April 2, 2015 at 3:59 pm

In 1971 (at 19) I went to the Greatest Story Ever Told at the Terrace in Robinsdale. Bill, a friend from grade school, introduced me to Steve Brown that night. (Later we became good friends.) That night Steve wanted to hear my testimony and he sat on the ledge by the big front windows as I stood and told him how I had met the Lord Jesus just a few days before while on the U of MN campus as Bill told me how he had met the Lord Jesus. He told me how Christ wanted to show his powerful love to thousands just as I had experienced. It was while at the Terrace that I heard how God wanted to send a great revival to our country and do mighty miracles even as He did when He walked in Galilee. The churches of our day are in the way as they preach false gospels and teach a different Jesus, but the living Christ is truly risen from the dead and alive today and “able to save to the uttermost all that come to God through Him.”

Terrace on May 17, 2015 at 3:28 pm

When the 1300 seat Terrace Theater opened in 1951, the spectacular venue was the most luxurious, comfortable and up-to-date theater in America. Local movie theater owners, Bill and Sydney Volk, spared no expense when they built their flagship overlooking the marshes on the west side of Crystal Lake. The architectural firm of Liebenberg and Kaplan designed the theater. In 1952, the Robbinsdale Post reported construction costs in excess of $750,000. The Terrace was equipped with a sunken den and fireplace, a television lounge, well furnished nursery rooms, deep and soft cushion seats, and background music throughout the theater. Considered a masterpiece of International-Style, The Terrace was one of the first ultramodern theaters in America. The Volk brothers planned the theater to serve all of the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities. A guest register from 1952 contained signatures from 25,000 people in every state of the union, Canada and many foreign countries. Over the years necessary improvements were made. In the 1970’s, The Terrace was retrofitted with 70mm equipment and the theater created a niche for action packed movies. In 1987 the theater purchased by the Midcontinental Theater Company.

The auditorium was divided in half, and two small balconies were separated and turned into 300 seat screening rooms. The last movie played in 1999 and the windows boarded up. The Terrace has remained unoccupied ever since. The building is currently owned by an out of state property management company with no interest in the neighborhood, or the historic significance of the building. The Terrace Theater has been pulling at the heart strings of Robbinsdale and the surrounding area for almost 15 years. Nobody really understands why this community treasure has been allowed to haunt the hillside for so long.

A couple years ago local rocker, Adam Fesenmaier started a facebook group called, “Save the Terrace”. The group grew and currently has the support of at least 1500 local theater enthusiasts. In the summer of 2014, Alison Nguyen attracted attention to the cause Robbinsdale’s annual Whiz Bang Days. Her Terrace 2.0 Float brought in local media and reminded Whiz Bang crowds that it was time to do something with this amazing historic building. In January 2015, “Save the Terrace” took a few steps off the little screen and into the real world. Our efforts are currently being organized as part of the Robbinsdale Historical Society. You can watch this page for more information and updates. If you want to get involved please consider joining the Robbinsdale Historical Society.

Cooperhawk on July 29, 2015 at 1:24 am

Terrace Theater meeting 6pm at The Lodge/Stage 81, Robins dale mn August 5,2015. Exploratory (more?)

DavidZornig on November 8, 2015 at 5:50 am

2012 photo added courtesy of The Last Seats Remaining Facebook page. Below link to the Save The Historic Terrace Theatre Facebook page was also on their page.


Johnmurphy1962 on April 1, 2016 at 8:00 pm

I was the projectionist from late 1995 to spring of 1997. It was fun to explore and learn the history of this theater.

ReneeL on July 24, 2016 at 12:20 am

Unfortunately, as of July 21, 2016 it looks like the Terrace Theatre will be demolished in favor of a big-box grocery store! The Robbinsdale City Council is supposed to meet on the proposal August 1, 2016. Check out the SAVE THE HISTORIC TERRACE THEATRE page on Facebook for more details.

retroalli on August 3, 2016 at 2:13 pm

According to the news, last night, the city council voted to tear it down.

Kirtis on September 20, 2016 at 3:28 am

Hey people, don’t give up! A lawsuit was filed to halt the demolition. The judge is expected to rule soon. Official historic designation by the National Park Service is expected soon as well. Check out “Terrace Theatre (Minnesota)” on Wikipedia for current information. It may be a David and Goliath fight but we all know who won that one!

DavidZornig on October 1, 2016 at 4:59 pm

It appears the fight is over.


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