The extraordinary film houses of Minneapolis and Saint Paul have been documented in the classic book by Kirk J. Besse entitled Show Houses: Twin Cities Style. (Victoria Publications Ltd., Minneapolis 1997.)
Another source, Herbert Scherer's The Marquee of Main Street, looks at a specific man, Jack Liebenberg, and his influence on film theatre designs in the first half of the 20th century. (Marquee on Main Street Jack Liebenberg's Movie Theaters: 1928-1941, Herbert Scherer, The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts Vol. 1, Spring, 1986, pp. 62-75)
Below please read some of the stories of historic venues, which give a taste of the rich past of cinema going in the Twin Cities.
The Bell Auditorium is the nations first and only dedicated non-fiction film screen. Formerly home to the University Film Society, The Bell Auditorium has been a pioneer in film exhibition both locally and nationally for 43 years. Since its inception, the Bell Auditorium has hosted many directors and film scholars including Robert Altman, Jean-Luc Godard, Roberto Rosellini, Max von Sydow, Pauline Kael, Marcel Ophuls, Benoit Jacquot and countless others.
Heights Historic Theatre
The Heights Theatre is located in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, a Northeast Minneapolis suburb. The Heights was originally constructed in 1926 by Gluek Brewery heir Arthur Gluek as a prohibition real estate venture.
The small 630 seat Parkway Theatre opened in 1931, a simple neighborhood house on the southern edge of Minneapolis. By the early-1970s, its then-owner decided to switch to pornographic films, in order to stay afloat. However, not long after, Bill Irvine, who was the manager of the theater at the time, purchased the Parkway Theatre, and started to screen art and foreign features. The Art Deco style Parkway Theatre remains one of the only single-screen movie houses in operation in the Twin Cities, renowned for its unusual and offbeat film variety as it is for its homemade popcorn with fresh butter.
In the late 40s, Sidney and William Volk wanted to replace an aging Falls Theater which was located on Minnehaha Avenue. They contracted with the premier theater architects of that period, Liebenberg and Kaplan, to build one of the finest theaters of that day.
The Uptown is one of the oldest surviving theaters in the Twin Cities area. Opened as the Lagoon Theater in 1913 it operated under this name until 1929 when it was remodeled and renamed. A fire in 1939 destroyed the theater and it was completely rebuilt. The structure has a 50-foot tower that once featured a revolving beam of light marking the Uptown area and could be seen for miles around.
Walker Art Center
Widely recognized for presenting a full-range of moving-image art forms, the Walker Art Center's film and video programs feature both contemporary and historical works. In the 1940s, the Walker quickly identified moving images (mostly movies, but also experimental films) as integral to contemporary life. Artists of that time were experimenting with film's formal properties, such as light, motion, and sound, while also separating film art from conventional narrative cinema. The Walker recognized the importance of these developments and made a commitment to the presentation of both experimental and classic cinema as essential to its core mission—a philosophy that continues today.