Terrace Theater

3508 France Avenue N,
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

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Terrace Theater

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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 50 comments)

Terrace on May 17, 2015 at 7:28 am

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 28, 2015 at 5:24 pm

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

DavidZornig on November 7, 2015 at 9:50 pm

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 12:00 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 23, 2016 at 4:20 pm

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 6:13 am

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

Kirtis on September 19, 2016 at 7:28 pm

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 8:59 am

It appears the fight is over.


Kirtis on October 8, 2016 at 3:49 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 8:00 am

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.

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