Looking Back

Photo of Orpheum Theatre Courtesy of the Minneapolis Public Library

Photo of Orpheum Theatre Courtesy of the Minneapolis Public Library

Hennepin Theatre Trust, established in 2000 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was created to assume responsibility for and guarantee the future of the State, Orpheum and Pantages Theatres which line Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. In 2005, the Trust executed a long term financing arrangement with the City of Minneapolis to transition ownership of these three theatres from the City to the Trust.

The City of Minneapolis originally owned the State Theatre as part of the LaSalle Plaza redevelopment project. Prior to this, our community routinely demolished older buildings—including historic theatres—to make way for new construction. The State Theatre is widely seen as the hallmark case of preservation in Minneapolis and it helped turn the tide against the automatic demolition of historic buildings. While the State Theatre was still undergoing restoration (completed in 1990), the Orpheum Theatre became available for purchase when singer/songwriter Bob Dylan and his brother put it on the market. The City quickly moved to acquire the venue, began operating the theatre almost immediately and subsequently completed restoration in 1993. In August 1996, Ted Mann, who owned the Pantages Theatre, sought a demolition permit. The City rejected demolition and assumed ownership of the Pantages which reopened after the restoration was completed in November 2002. The Trust is currently retiring more than $20 million in City-issued bond debt that was incurred to pay for the theatres’ restoration.

In 2011, Hennepin Theatre Trust established the New Century Theatre, a flexible use performance space on the street level of City Center. Seating up to 300, this new venue is used for local and touring performances and education initiatives offered by the Trust such as the Broadway Confidential series, student cabarets and training for the Spotlight Musical Theatre Program. The New Century Theatre is named in homage to the Century Theatre, one of four historic theatres that used to operate near the site of what is now City Center. The original theater opened in 1908 as a 2,000-seat vaudeville house called the Miles. It was rebuilt several times, eventually named the Century Theatre in 1929 and transformed into the 1,145 seat Century Cinerama in the mid 1950s. The Century burned in 1964 and was bulldozed the following year.

Today and Beyond

Today, Hennepin Theatre Trust continues to operate, preserve and program these historic theatres. As the long term owner, operator and principal programmer of these amazing venues, the Trust is positioned to create a bright future for them, presenting a broad array of live entertainment that enriches our community. We have hired Historic Theatre Group, LLC to oversee the daily operation of our theatres. We also work with a variety of outside organizations, including a relationship with Broadway Across America, to assist us in securing the very best in touring Broadway engagements. The Trust has brought current works to our stages through valuable local partnerships with The Jungle Theater, The Loft Literary Center, Theatre Lattè Da and Cantus, the History Theatre, Actors Theater, Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, the Guthrie Theater and National Geographic. The Trust will continue to foster a broad range of partnerships to ensure a diverse mix of programming for our patrons.

The New Century Theatre will enable the Trust to extend its programming as a complement to its ongoing operation of the Orpheum, State and Pantages Theatres. It is a key part of the Trust’s work in continuing to revitalize Hennepin Avenue and increase its arts education and presenting activities.