Apache Six Theater

2101 37th Avenue NE,
Columbia Heights, MN 55421

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Apache Six Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Apache Theater was originally built as a single screen theater in the mid-1960’s. It featured a spacious lobby with fireplace lounge, split granite walls and unique orange ‘candy’ light fixtures. The theater’s original Cinerama auditorium has divided over the years into six seperate theaters, four in the orchestra and two in the balcony.

It was operated by Mann Theaters until a few years ago when the owners of the Heights Theater, Tom Letness and Dave Holmgren, purchased the building. They made some improvements, such as removing the video games from the fireplace lounge. They had intended to renovate two of the smaller theaters into a larger space suitable for 70mm and art house films.

Renovation costs, a rapidly deteriorating roof, and little incoming revenue led them to close the theater in the Winter of 2003. The owners decided to turn their efforts over completely to the operation of the nearby Heights Theater.

This often ignored icon of post-1950’s theater design was put up for sale and it was demolished in 2007.

Contributed by Sean Ryan

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

ryan0290 on June 16, 2004 at 9:25 am

The theater is still vacant as the weeds take over the parking lot. I hope that someone with an eye for design and film can take over the old Chief Theater soon. A theater with a bad roof is like a table without legs.

(Could someone on staff fix my links above? Gracias.)

erichanson on August 11, 2004 at 9:17 pm

I am a former employee of the Apache 6 Theatre. I began working in the theatre business at the Heights Theatre and when Tom bought the Apache 6, he transfered me to begin training as a projectionest and work on restoring the theatre. I was heartbroken when we were told about the theatre being closed. I have put two years of my life into helping make the Apache someplace better that the rest of the huge blan theatres that keep poping up. I know that if someone buys the Apache 6 that they will have many people from the previous staff that would like to return. Also since there is no other multiplex in the Northeast Minneapolis area it would most assuredly draw a croud.

crhansen on May 27, 2005 at 10:01 am

Does anyone know if this theatre is still for sale? There might be some interest in reviving it in some way.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 7, 2007 at 9:41 am

This is a January 31, 2007 article about the Apache Six Theater.

“Apache Theater building nearing its end.

Sun Newspapers-Sun Focus
By Eric Hagen

The vacated Apache Theater will be demolished soon, possibly this month.

The competitive hurdles of a lack of stadium seating and surround sound led to the theater’s demise in 2003.

The theater became a nostalgic trip for customers with the orange candy light fixtures, the fireplace lounge and Native American art. The trips were not frequent enough, though. Customers could drive to newer theaters in Mounds View and Brooklyn Center (that offered more screens) to see most of their movies, said Tom Letness, who owns the Heights Theater and leased the Apache Theater for 16 months with Dave Holmgren before closing it.

Some people asked me why I closed (the Apache),“ Letness said. "They said they had great memories in the theater. I asked them what was the last movie they went to there and they said ‘I remember going to 'Titanic.’‘” That film was released in late 1997.

The theater closed on Sept. 1, 2003, Letness said. Despite his best efforts, he knew major improvements would not pay for themselves with business the way it was.

“If people are given greater places to go for the same amount of money, they will go there especially with how mobile people are,” Letness said.

Gerry Herringer’s family business – Herringer Company of Columbia Heights – built and owned the theater for all 34 years it was open and the more than three years since it closed. Once demolished, Pratt Ordway will develop a Comforts of Home senior assisted-living facility there, and attached to that will be the Little Voyageurs Montessori School. The City of Columbia Heights purchased the southern portion of the parking lot along 37th Avenue for development of a new municipal liquor store.

The theater business used to be a trademark for Herringer Company in this area. They owned the Twin Drive-In in Fridley, on the site of the current Medtronic headquarters. They owned the Hilltop Drive-In where K-Mart was later developed and where Grand Central Lofts now sits. They also owned a drive-in theater in Maplewood that closed. The family business, which focuses on real estate today, still owns the Cottage View Drive-In in Cottage Grove.

Gerry Herringer was the vice president of Herringer Company when the company built the Chief Theater in 1969 in Columbia Heights. They had owned the Twin Drive-In since it opened in 1949 and had owned the Hilltop Drive-In since 1967 so the theater business was nothing new for the Herringers. Having an indoor theater was new, but was necessary for the future Apache site at 37th Avenue and Hart Boulevard because the property was deemed too small for a drive-in theater.

The theater opened with just one screen, but soon it became apparent that competition would require expansion to multiple screens.

“Theater business is the number of screens,” Herringer said. “The more screens, the better leverage you have with the (motion picture) distributors.”

They built a second auditorium at the theater in 1975. But that was still not enough.

When Engler Theaters began leasing the theater from Herringer Company in the early 1980s, they did more than change the name of the theater from the Chief to Apache Theater to reflect the nearby Apache Plaza. Engler Theaters also split off the loge seats located in the upper levels of the existing auditoriums to essentially create two smaller auditoriums upstairs that would each seat 100 people.

When Engler Theaters went out of business and Mann Theaters took over, Mann split the two large auditoriums to create four auditoriums on the ground level, meaning there were six screens total by the time the last expansion occurred in the late 1980s.

Even the six screens could not compete with the newer theaters, not just because some newer theaters had over 10 screens to provide multiple showings of popular movies or more movie options, but also because only two Apache Theater screens featured Dolby sound.

Herringer said the Heights Theater, near 40th and Central avenues, does well because it focuses on making a trip to the movies nostalgic by harking back to the 1930s and 1940s when going to Saturday matinees was a regular trip for kids.

Apache Theater tried to compete with modern multiplex facilities.

“It was a local neighborhood theater,” said Stephen Mann, co-owner with his brother of Mann Theaters, which operated the Apache Theater for more than 15 years until Letness and Holmgren took over in 2002. “It just got buried by the number of multiplex theaters with stadium seating”.

Jesse Hoheisel
Jesse Hoheisel on April 15, 2007 at 6:43 pm

Yeah, chalk this one up to “demolished.” Just drove by it. Nothing but an empty parking lot that misses its previous occupant of 30-some years.


MinnesotaJones on January 14, 2009 at 10:17 am

Check out the great photo’s here of the Apache from someone’s website on Apache Plaza…


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