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 was decided after a local campaign failed to prevent it demolition which came on October 1, 2016.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 53 comments)

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.


Kirtis on October 8, 2016 at 11:49 am

Yes, the fight is over. The Terrace never got its day in court. The Robbinsdale City Council approved demolition in July 2016 at the request of a developer to make way for a Hy-Vee grocery store, a convenience store, a coffee shop, and gas pumps. On September 22, 2016, a citizens group, Friends of the Terrace, filed a lawsuit under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, a 1971 law that protects the state’s natural and historic resources. A hearing was scheduled for October 10, 2016. The group asked for a temporary restraining order (TOR) on demolition until the case could be heard, but a judge denied that request on September 20.

The developer obtained a demolition permit from the city late in the day on Friday, September 23, and on Saturday morning, September 24, brought in heavy equipment and assaulted the theater, smashing through the large slanted front glass panels (which had been boarded over) and ripping a hole in the bricks on the upper level. Members of the public and the media were on site. Many witnessed the developer removing the “sputnik” light fixtures, one of the last remaining treasures inside, and whisking them off to an unknown location. Demolition was temporarily halted by a judge who rushed to the scene, but the demolition crew then proceeded to rip up the parking lot and fill in the theater’s lobby with dirt and debris.

When the temporary stay expired on Monday, September 26, the judge who had originally denied the TOR extended the stay until September 30, but required Friends of the Terrace to post bonds of $6.3 million to indemnify the City of Robbinsdale and the out-of-state property owner in order for the suit to proceed, giving them just days to raise enough to post $6.3 million in bond money. This excessive amount was forty times more than ever required in a case like this, setting a precedent for future preservation cases.

Friends of the Terrace was unable to come up with the funds for the bonds by the deadline, and a crew began assembling a demolition crane that afternoon. B y noon on Saturday, October 1, demolition was in full swing, and as of this writing the theater is nothing but rubble.

There is outrage, anger, hurt—and resolve—among the stalwart Terrace Theatre supporters who worked diligently for more than two years to save and preserve the theater. The mayor and two city council members are up for reelection in November 2016 and it is expected they will lose their seats over the way they handled the Terrace. Sadly, it is now gone.

pwood2 on October 21, 2016 at 4:00 pm

I drove by this morning to and stopped down on the back side. I was looking for memories from my childhood. The biggest one was the back stairwell that took you down to be back parking lot. We would use this often to sit with friends while waiting for the movie to start. it was also the path we use to run up for the “Time Out” arcade that was in the mall behind the theater. I am very sad to see the Terrace go. I was able to slip in and grab a couple bricks to cherish. I little piece of my childhood has died.

Texas2step on November 10, 2016 at 4:38 pm

This one opened on May 23, 1951.

Kirtis on November 10, 2016 at 5:16 pm

Right, it opened 5/23/51 as “America’s Finest Theatre.” Not a hollow claim. I’ve made two videos about the last days of this unique (because of its stunning Midcentury Modern architecture) and irreplaceable (because it is now demolished) historic theater and its senseless destruction. You can watch them on YouTube from this link. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZBoGqdiur5aSd-rDWHoB4vjPxP-zMu2Z&spfreload=10

MJV on November 11, 2016 at 5:14 am

I managed to get up to the site before the entire building was razed. Another great movie palace starinf at the wrecking ball. As I walked the perimeter of the site, a person walked up to me and said “it’s a shame.” I agreed. I went on to explain that this was at least the fourth one of these I’ve been connected with that ended up like this. I recalled the Cooper closing and its demolition in the early 90’s. That closing and demolition was similar. In that cade, as with the Terrace, the land was and is a valuable asset for its next use and that value is independent and without regsrd to its past use. Thus the Terrace met its fate.

I upload a photo of the north side of the building showing the start of the demolition. The projection booth can be seen in the area beyond the removed wall.


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