619 Hennepin Avenue,
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Architects: Jack J. Liebenberg
Firms: Liebenberg and Kaplan
Styles: Streamline Moderne
Previous Names: New Grand Theatre, Grand Theatre
News About This Theater
When it opened in 1911, the Grand Theatre, or New Grand Theatre as it was briefly called, was a vaudeville house, but by the 1920’s, was showing movies only. It was part of the F & R circuit. In 1928 the Grand Theatre was taken over by Paramount-Publix and was wired for sound, but by 1936 had closed.
Two years later, it was completely remodeled by architect Jack J. Liebenberg in an Art Moderne style, seating around 1,000, and opening as the Gopher Theatre on October 29, 1938. The name was chosen by a contest, and comes from the University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers football team.
Unlike its Neo-Classical predecessor, the Gopher Theatre was then-very modern looking. It featured the colors of the University of Minnesota, maroon and gold on its Vitrolite exterior and tall tower-style marquee. The interior was done in shades of white and pink.
Though it was a downtown movie house, it originally never played the big hits, though it did host a 1941 live appearance by Gene Autry which drew a large crowd.
In 1950, the Gopher Theatre was taken over by a new owner, Ted Karatz and his partner Ben Berger, who began a policy of screening first-run films, which continued into the 1970’s.
By the late-1970’s, however, the Gopher Theatre was a porno house, and was closed in 1979. It was torn down soon afterwards.
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