11 Minnesota Theaters Restored for a New Era

By Loren Green

cozy theater in wadena

Across Minnesota, many historic theaters were built for stage performance and later converted for film. Many of these were lovingly restored more than once to entertain generation after generation, from vaudeville to flickering silent pictures and into the era of high-definition digital video. Others went the other direction, as grand old movie houses were converted for stage entertainment.

Here are some of the state’s more notable historic theaters, where the action on screen and stage is only part of the magic.

Historic State Theatre, Jackson

Built in the 1920s, this single screen movie house has been updated to play digital and 3D movies.

Palace Theatre, Luverne

The Palace was built in 1914 as a stage theater. Since a remodel in 2007, it’s been a mixed-use facility hosting live stage productions and movie screenings.

Princess Theater, St. James

This southern Minnesota theater has had multiple uses since it was built just over a century ago. After multiple remodels, the city-owned building now features a balcony level movie theater and a restored lobby in addition to its notable marquee and neon lights.

Jem Movie Theatre, Harmony

With weekend screenings of first-run movies at $5 per adult, this single-screen theater embodies the charm of Harmony, located between Lanesboro and the Iowa border. In 2011, the community helped raise funds to convert to digital equipment to keep the theater running.

Comet Theatre, Cook

Open and running since 1939, the Comet plays movies nightly and features a coffee shop on-site as well as a boutique gift shop with clothing, home decor, furniture, artwork and more.

Grand Theater, Crookston

This century old theater is reportedly one of the country’s longest continual-running movie theaters, though it was first built for stage acts. Today, it’s a two-screen operation that maintains its historic feel while also showing how older buildings can be modified for modern technology.

Orpheum Theatre, Ada

The red and gold marquee makes Ada’s Orpheum jump out from its neighbors on West Main Street. The theater is nearly 100 years old and has been upgraded to keep up with trends and to keep the local community entertained.

Cozy Theatre, Wadena

From its 1914 showing of "The Last Days of Pompeii" to reopening with "Twister and Mission: Impossible" in 1996, the Cozy Theatre remains a key building in Wadena, identified by its vertical sign at the corner of Colfax and Jefferson.

Flame Theatre, Wells

The original building burned down in 1960, and the Flame Theatre was built in its place. Open Friday-Monday with tickets just $3 each.

Canby Theatre, Canby

This art deco theater opened in downtown Canby and still entertains crowds in southwest Minnesota today. It has historic character with modern amenities. In 2015, it was named WCCO’s “Viewers’ Choice for Best Movie Theater in Minnesota.”

Heights Theater, Columbia Heights

Built in 1926 by brewery heir Arthur Gluek to show locally produced stage plays and vaudeville during the thirsty days of prohibition, the Heights features an impressive 1929-vintage pipe organ, played before the 7:10 movie on Friday and Saturday evenings. The theater has both state-of-the-arts digital and film projection equipment, and hosts first-run movies as well as classic film series.