This October marks the 100th anniversary of the Pantages Theatre — an intimate show house in the heart of downtown with a unique and colorful history. The Trust is celebrating the special milestone by offering a variety of community-focused arts and cultural experiences throughout the coming year.
The Pantages opened in 1916 as a vaudeville house — and part of Greek immigrant Alexander Pantages’ renowned collection of theatres.
Since that time, the Pantages has been home to a wide range of movies, as well as music and theatre shows.
Pantages Theatre History
LOOKING BACK 1916–1965
The Pantages, which now seats 1014, opened in 1916 as a vaudeville house and part of Greek
immigrant and impresario Alexander Pantages’ renowned consortia of theatres. It was designed by the Minneapolis firm of Kees and Colburn in an Art Moderne/Beaux Arts style. The Pantages’ first show was a vaudeville lineup that included singers, comedians and a banjo player. In 1922, the Pantages was remodeled by renowned theatre architect Marcus Priteca/RKO and a new stained glass dome was added, which remains among the Pantages’ most lovely features. In 1945, Edmond Ruben purchased the Pantages and renovated it by adding bird’s-eye maple. The grand reopening was on April 14, 1946 with a screening of “Gilda.” In 1961, Ruben sold the Pantages to Ted Mann, who owned five other downtown Minneapolis theatres including the Orpheum Theatre. Mann renovated the Pantages yet again, and reopened it as a top-notch movie house the Mann Theatre on March 15, 1961 with the movie “Spartacus.” That same year, United Artists previewed “West Side Story” at the Mann; and the film went on to win ten Academy Awards. In 1965 director Robert Wise, recalling his success with “West Side Story,” decided to preview his new movie, “The Sound of Music,” at the Mann. The showing at the Pantages was a terrific success and went on to become the longest running film in Twin Cities history – just under two years. The theatre operated sporadically from 1965 through 1984, continuing to show movies including the Mann’s last Twin Cities premiere of “Annie” in 1982.
In 1984, the Mann Theatre closed and remained shuttered until 1996, when current Hennepin Theatre Trust President/CEO Tom Hoch and former Historic Theatre Group President Fred Krohn initiated a five-year effort to save and restore the Pantages Theatre. During the renovation, architectural drawings were found and used to restore much of the theatre’s decorative plasterwork and character. The stained-glass “monitor,” a false skylight in the center of the auditorium’s ceiling, was revealed after layers of paint were removed. In cooperation with the City of Minneapolis, on November 7, 2002 the completely renovated Pantages re-opened at a cost of $9.5 million. Since then, the intimate Pantages has presented music, theatre and dance artists including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Vince Gill, Feist, Todd Rundgren, The Blenders and collaborative productions with Twin Cities’ organizations including the Jungle Theater, the History Theatre, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Cantus and Theater Latté Da. Hennepin Theatre Trust is now the owner and operator of this magnificent structure.
Experience Theatre History – Tours are Open to the Public!
Take a walking tour of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s State, Orpheum or Pantages Theatres! Experienced guides highlight architecture, historical facts and tell stories about the venues that anchored the region’s “Theatre Row.” Each walking tour gives access to the theatres’ interiors as well as details and a fascinating historical perspective that patrons never experience when attending an event. The tours give theatre patrons, historians, students and others a personal introduction to these historic gems. Guides spotlight architectural, historic and fun facts about these landmarks, providing an insider’s view to these majestic venues.
Did you get engaged at one of the theatres? Were you an usher? A performer? A construction worker? A stagehand? The Orpheum, State, Pantages and Century Theatres have a long and colorful history dating back to the early 1900s. If you, or someone you know, has a personal story or interesting anecdote related to these fine venues, we would love to hear it.
Hennepin Theatre Trust is in the process of collecting and preserving these valuable stories to help us capture the rich history of these theatres so that we can share them with future generations. We plan to capture these stories to share with the public through written materials and a planned historical documentary about the theatres.
Are you looking for a premier Minneapolis location to hold your event? The Pantages Theatre is well-known, extremely well-equipped and has efficient, friendly and knowledgeable staff. Our convenient downtown location also offers plenty of nearby parking. Please visit our Theatre Rental page for more information on hosting a performance or event in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.