Strand Theatre

450 Wabasha Street North,
St. Paul, MN 55102

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The Starland Theatre was opened in 1912, for both movies and live stage performances. In 1916, it was remodeled, and was one of the major Saint Paul theaters at the time, including the only smoking lounge in the city, uniformed “usherettes”, and a discretely illuminated clock in the auditorium, before wristwatches became commonplace.

In 1921, the theater was remodeled once more, and was renamed the Strand Theatre at this time. Also, a pipe organ was installed, and admission rose from a dime to a quarter.

By 1931, the Strand Theatre was declared structurally unsound, and was torn down, but a new theater of the same name was built on the site, designed in an Art Deco style by architectural firm Liebenberg & Kaplan, which opened in 1933, seating around 800. The new Strand Theatre cost over $75,000 to erect, and included a long, curving canopy marquee which swept around the corner of Wabasha Street North and Eighth Street, where the theater was located, with a two-story tall vertical marquee above, shaped something like an upside-down rocket. Retail shops flanked the Strand Theatre’s main entrance, which originally featured an outdoor ticket booth, with two sets of three doors on either side.

The Strand Theatre continued to operate until 1975, and was demolished about a year later.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

AndrewBarrett
AndrewBarrett on February 20, 2008 at 1:48 am

This theatre had an American Fotoplayer at one time. (ref: Bowers' “Encyclopedia” pg. 367)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 26, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Dave Kenney’s Twin Cities Picture Show says that the 1932-33 rebuilding of the Strand Theatre was the work of architects Liebenberg & Kaplan.

AndrewBarrett
AndrewBarrett on April 11, 2014 at 9:05 pm

The “Music Trade Review” magazine of June 3, 1916, Volume 62, Number 23, page 92, has an interesting item mentioning the Starland Theatre and its Fotoplayer.

“PRAISE FOR THE FOTOPLAYER”

Interesting Letters sent to W. J. Dyer & Bros.

in Which This Instrument Is Highly Extolled

The American Fotoplayer Co., New York, received this week a copy of the following interesting letter recently sent to W. J. Dyer & Bros., Fotoplayer representatives, by C. W. Sawin, branch manager of Vitagraph-Lubin-Selig-Essanay, Inc. “When you called me by phone and invited me to St. Paul to hear the Fotoplayer in connection with the ‘Battle Cry of Peace’ in the Starland Theatre of your city, I really thought that I should be wasting time, for I have heard so many instruments in picture theatres which were complete failures so far as playing the pictures was concerned that I could not conceive of an instrument under the control of a single operator bring out the details of a gigantic production like the ‘Battle Cry of Peace.’ "I must confess, however, that the Fotoplayer as used in connection with the ‘Battle Cry of Peace’ at the Starland Theatre proved a revelation to me.
I could hardly realize that bugle calls, fife and drum corps, pistol shots, exploding of shells, booming of cannons, etc., etc., could be brought out so vividly, and I have change [sic] my views in regard to the possibility of the Fotoplayer. The Fotoplayer is not only a wonderful instrument but a marked success in bringing out picture detail and I can unhesitatingly recommend it to theatre-owners.”

Unfortunately, the model of the instrument wasn’t mentioned in the little article/letter cited above, but I would bet that, judging from the Cinema Treasures description of this theatre, it was one of their larger models, probably (though not necessarily) a model 40, 45, or 50.

Also unfortunately, the name of the talented person/musician who played this Fotoplayer in this theatre for the “Battle Cry of Freedom” was also omitted, for whatever reason. I think this a great shame, since the Fotoplayer requires a talented operator to make good music and good accompaniment. Does anyone know the names of any musicians who played at the Starland Theatre, even after the 1916 period?

Despite the sad end to this theatre, there is a very slim chance this Fotoplayer still exists somewhere, since it was most likely traded in to Kilgen in 1917 when they installed their theatre pipe organ in this same theatre. Fortunately, the Kilgen factory records still exist (somewhere) and are likely to record the trade-in and probably also subsequent resale of this particular Fotoplayer to another theatre.

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