State Theatre History
LOOKING BACK 1921–1988
The State Theatre, which seats 2,181, opened in 1921 and was then considered the most technologically advanced and elaborate theatre in the United States. One Minneapolis newspaper columnist described it as “a gilded pleasure palace, dedicated to the Hollywood dreams that captured America’s heart in the roaring ’20s.” It was designed by Chicago architect J.E.O. Pridmore in a free Italian Renaissance style and boasted the first well-driven air conditioning system in Minneapolis. The original stage floor was glass, lit from underneath to create stunning visual effects.The opening night program included a silent film, newsreel and travelogue. A Wurlitzer pipe organ was installed in 1925 and concerts were held every day for 25 cents. The State’s neon marquee was installed in the ’40s and runs the entire width of the theatre. Between 1921 and 1978, the State Theatre was used primarily as a movie house, but also hosted vaudeville acts including Nora Bayes and Victor Herbert, concerts and ballet. The movie screen was the largest screen west of the Mississippi River at the time and designed so every person had a perfect view of the film. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” set a national record at the State in 1970 for the longest run in America (34 weeks), and the final picture show was “Tommy” on New Year’s Eve 1975. In 1978, the theatre was purchased by the Jesus People Church and served as their place of worship. The church covered the murals and sculpted figures with drapes and plaster shields, which were removed during the renovation process.
The Minneapolis Community Development Agency purchased the LaSalle Plaza block in 1989, including the State, as part of the LaSalle Plaza development. After nearly two years of renovation at a cost of $8.8 million, the State Theatre re-opened in November of 1991 with the Minnesota Opera’s production of Carousel. The restored proscenium spans almost the full width of the building and curves 100 feet above the stage. The six chandeliers in the house are original, as are the murals on the walls. Since the re-opening in 1991, the State has hosted live Broadway touring productions such as Avenue Q, Sweeney Todd and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, concerts featuring Patti Smith and Gordon Lightfoot, author and adventure speaker series and films including the world premiere of the Minnesota-based movie, “Grumpy Old Men.” Hennepin Theatre Trust is now the owner and operator of this magnificent structure.
Experience Theatre History
Tours are available for school and educational groups!
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 State 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.