Varsity Theater

1308 Fourth Street SE,
Minneapolis, MN 55414

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Showing 1 - 25 of 27 comments

dmmaasch on May 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I was manager of the Varsity and the Campus theatres during the 1970’s, a great time to work in that area. I still have the original blueprints from 1915 and the remodeling prints from 1939. In the early 1970’s, General Cinema remodeled it to their company style

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on November 16, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Here is the Varsity at night.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 9, 2008 at 7:17 pm

This is an August 2008 photo.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 1, 2007 at 8:59 am

A more recent photo can be seen here.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 18, 2007 at 8:12 am

Here is another 2007 view.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 17, 2007 at 8:40 am

This is a more recent photo of the Varsity Theater.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 9, 2007 at 7:16 am

Here is a 2007 night view of the Varsity Theater.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 5, 2007 at 6:29 am

As mentioned in a comment above, this theater opened in 1915 as the University Theater. The architect for the remodel was Jack Liebenberg.

This is a 9/23/2004 article about the Varsity Theater.

“Plans take shape for Dinkytown’s Varsity Theater.

Source: Finance and Commerce Daily Newspaper, MN
Byline: Burl Gilyard

Restaurateur and impresario Jason McLean has found his niche in Dinkytown, recently launching his third project in the University of Minnesota business district. In his latest deal, he signed a lease at the iconic Varsity Theater, a onetime cinema at 1308 4th St. S.E. that he plans to convert into a cafe and performance space.

“We want to return it to being a theater, and as such I want it to be a multi-purpose space,” said McLean. “I see it as bringing people into the neighborhood.”

McLean said that he is planning to open a small cafe with soups, sandwiches and a full bar in the space that once served as the lobby to the theater. In the old theater space, McLean envisions an eclectic combination of theater, dance, film and music, with seating for about 180 to 200 people.

McLean wants to have the cafe open by late October and plans to have the performance space ready to go by November. The building offers approximately 9,000 square feet of space on the main floor and balcony.

McLean is inviting local producers and promoters to a meeting at the theater this Saturday to introduce them to the space.

McLean currently operates the Loring Pasta Bar, 327 14th Ave. S.E., and the Kitty Cat Klub, 315 14th Ave. S.E., on the same block.

The Varsity dates to 1915, when it began life as the University Theater. It was overhauled into its modern incarnation in 1939 by noted regional theater architect Jack Liebenberg. The building hit the market in January after a commercial photography studio moved out.

But it’s been more than a decade since the space was open to the public.

Michael Finkelstein of St. Paul-based Suntide Commercial Realty handled the property, which is owned by his parents.

“He’s got a very cool concept, very unique,” said Finkelstein. “It’s the right fit. He’s a very talented guy.”

McLean will be leasing the building, with an option to buy the property.

Previously, McLean ran the popular Loring Cafe near Loring Park in Minneapolis. That restaurant closed in 2002 amid a highly publicized falling out between McLean and his landlord. The original Loring Cafe served drinks and food, but it was perhaps best known as a local scene.

Although McLean was frustrated with his exodus from Loring Park, he is clearly trying to re-create the same vibe in Dinkytown.

“Before I was in the restaurant business, I was a theater actor, director, producer. It’s a natural,” said McLean of the Varsity space. “This facility is just magnificent, and I just get goose bumps when I go in there. It just fits perfectly”.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 15, 2006 at 8:44 am

This is another recent photo of the Varsity Theater. Still open.

GeorgeStrum on August 1, 2006 at 5:17 am

Next summer the Theatre Historical Society may be visiting this theatre.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 1, 2006 at 3:46 am

Here is a recent night view of the Varsity Theater. Status should be Open.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 21, 2006 at 4:44 am

This is a recent 2006 photo of the Varsity Theater.

kencmcintyre on June 14, 2006 at 3:36 pm

This is a January 2005 article about the re-opening of the Varsity:

zooklaw on May 18, 2006 at 7:36 am

The Varsity Theater is managed by the staff of the neighboring Loring Pasta Bar.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 4, 2006 at 4:24 am

Here is a 2006 photo of the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.

ryan0290 on April 8, 2005 at 12:07 pm

The Varsity is Alive again!

Thank You Mr. Mclean-

Marvelous Job!

PeteScholtes on January 27, 2005 at 12:58 pm

I’m putting together a history of the Varsity and would love to talk to all of you, but don’t seem to be able to email you by clicking on your names. If you’d like, email me at

Jesse Hoheisel
Jesse Hoheisel on January 12, 2005 at 10:36 pm

So they’re not going to be showing movies then? That’s sad….

kbaichtal on January 9, 2005 at 6:02 pm

Here’s an article that includes a contact email for the Varsity.

View link

I see there’s a Loring Cafe connection… too cool!!

Jesse Hoheisel
Jesse Hoheisel on January 9, 2005 at 5:07 pm

Does anyone know what they are doing to the Varsity now, and what is taking it so long? It was going to reopen in November, now what?

kbaichtal on October 16, 2004 at 10:32 am

If I am remembering correctly the rent-to-buy in 1990 was $200K-ish? Don’t know about the later two sales.

scotchie on October 16, 2004 at 10:16 am

Does anyone know what the purchase price was? The reason I ask is that I am looking at a similar venue, in a similar condition, with a very similar history, and am looking for a comparable. This is public information from the city for assesment purposes but it might be difficult to obtain for a period because it appears that the sale was recent?

banquo79 on October 12, 2004 at 12:11 pm

The theater was bought again and will soon be more of a theatre. The new owner wants to turn it into a play house. He is in the process of remodeling now and wants to reopen by november (probably late november). It will be a venue for artists to gather at the all day cafe, and a bar that will occupy the lobby area. And the theater space will be just that, except it will return to its vaudeville roots in that live action theatre will be performed, as well as musical acts and tours. The owner wants to make the space available for fledgling actors from the university of minnesota to put on plays that perhaps they write themselves or if they want to get a troupe going they can start there. Its a “just off campus” real audience experience that he wants to give them, he’s a former actor himself.

nelsonexpert on August 16, 2004 at 2:04 pm

Question: how do we change some of the Theatre Information at the top of this page – such as address, seating capacity, etc when usually they are “unknown”? (or are incorrect) I see nothing in the FAQ’s about this.

Varsity Theatre in Mpls was known as the University Theatre prior to its 1938 remodeling by Liebenberg and Kaplan, and was renamed Varsity. It closed as a movie theatre in 1988. The city of Mpls was able to shut the theatre down for not paying sales taxes during the brief time as a nightclub as described above. The building is currently for sale.