Uptown Theater to celebrate 100 years as local landmark

- In a world that's fast paced and constantly changing, an iconic institution is nearing a major milestone. Now the centennial celebration is coming to a theater near you.

"I think its crazy. I know a lot of people don't think its that old," said Uptown Theater Assistant Manager Joe Larsen who has delved into the history of the theater.

The Uptown Theater originally opened as the Lagoon Theater on June 3, 1916 with 1500 seats and an orchestra pit because it showed silent movies.

The owners changed the name in 1929 with the arrival of sound, but a fire gutted the theater ten years later when it was rebuilt with its three sided tower that was the first of its kind in the country which required permission from the civil aviation authority and included a beacon that could be seen for miles around.

"It was kind of one of the big showplace cinemas. The murals were outlined in blacklight paint so when the lights went down that was the only light in the theater. It was neat," said Larsen.

The theater was even home to a murder in 1933, when a former employee was shot and killed during a robbery gone wrong. Police found a holdup note in his pocket so there was speculation he was in on the job. Some employees even think the theater is haunted.

"Our basement is pretty creepy. We have old tunnels. Alot of employees don't like to rummage around there in the dark. So it can get pretty spooky," said Larsen.

Long before cable and Netflix, The Uptown Theater was the only place Minnesotans could see art house, independent, and foreign films as well as midnight showings of cult classics like the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

A facelift four years ago, added bigger seats, couches in the balcony, and a full bar.

More recently, its become known for its cheeky marquees that poke fun at the movies as well as our minnesota weather.

"Its a different atmosphere people come here. Its an older building. We try to be more personable with people. We have alot of regulars we talk to," said Larsen.

To celebrate reaching the century mark, the theater will host a week of classic films as well as historical exhibits and tours.

Employees believe there's enough movie magic for the theater to last another 100 years.

"This is what we love to do. Hope the community sees that and that they want to come and celebrate this anniversary with us, " said Larsen.

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