Monday, October 26, 2015

The Lost Renovations: Found!

Upon searching through Minneapolis' property info website, new information regarding the 'lost' renovation has come to light. Namely, that it was actually two separate occurrences.

Building Permit 524099, issued 9/13/83, called for the installation of a ticket booth & snack stand combo. It was cleared on 7/3/85, so it's pretty safe to say that the bizarre lobby design was created shortly thereafter. Then, on 5/10/93, Permit 597847 was issued to replace loose and deteriorated brick on the northwest corner of the building (this was cleared almost immediately on 6/18/93). This would be part of the renovation alluded to on the site and a 1991 movie theater rehabilitation guidelines document:

 "During the 1990s, the owners acquired the plans from the 1939 renovation and restored the lobby and the second floor lounge areas. In addition, the auditorium’s side walls are adorned with re-created carved murals of Acousti-Celotex." (from

"The Uptown is presently undergoing an extensive renovation...the owners have acquired the plans from the 1939 renovation of the interior and are restoring the marquee and recreating the Art Moderne and Neo-Baroque design elements of the lobby and second floor lounge areas." (from Neighborhood Movie Theater Thematic District: Guidelines for Rehabilitation, July 1991)

So, then, the mural recreation took place at this time. Because it didn't involve the lobby renovation, the theater likely never had to close its doors, hence why the Star Tribune didn't find it worth writing about. Mysteries solved, except for why the murals switched auditorium walls. The world may never know.

On a sort-of related note, the sales history of the Uptown was also discovered through this search. Lagoon Enterprises sold the area to Uptown Properties on 3/1/83 for $300,000, and then Cann LLC sold to Lagoon Partners LLC on 12/10/09 for $1,399,999. The more you know...

UPDATE (2.25.16)

Looks like the 80s renovation can be pinpointed to 1984:

When [Michael] Bender walked into the theater last fall, he was appalled. For too many years, bad management had let things slide to such an extent that the Uptown had become a pigsty. Smoking and drinking at shows was standard, giving the theater an earthy bar-charm that clashed with what was on the screen. The bathrooms were unusable. Kids snuck in. It was a mess, he says...

Bender and Landmark Theaters, which owns the theater, decided to do a little bit of construction. The result, though not quite finished, is impressive. With a healthy splash of lime paint, a few dozen feet of neon tubing and a lot of mirrored glass, the Uptown Theater has been transformed into a veritable art deco palace. The result has been a quieter, cleaner crowd. (from Twin Cities Reader, 5.15.84)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Lost Renovation

The picture above is the final glimpse of the Uptown Theatre lobby stand prior to its current renovation. This destruction took place the night of January 31, 2012, after the old Uptown closed its doors for the last time.

The area was a bizarre architectural decision. Instead of a separate box office and concession stand, the design linked them together in an almost-circle, with the box office terminal at the top, concession terminals on the bottom left and right, and the popcorn popper in the center. There was little room provided for employees during busy shows, and the concession registers were so far away from each other, many customers never realized that both existed.

When this design was implemented is unknown. Occasional articles from the 80s and 90s vaguely refer to a renovation occurring either around 1983 or 1989. The latter date can be ruled out easily, as mention of it would have certainly appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Yet there is nothing about it in their online database. However, this collection only goes back until 1986. In order to find proof of a 1983 event, the newspaper's microfilm had to be gone through month-by-month in the archives of the University of Minnesota. Daily movie showtimes were checked between the years between 1982 and 1985 - it's unlikely that the theater would've stayed open during a renovation that led to this circular design - but no gap was found. It is, then, a mystery.

The lobby was not the only strange occurrence of this untraceable event. The two murals inside of the auditorium were re-created, but in much less detail. Not only that, but the murals were placed on opposite walls on which they originally resided. The only clue of this design comes from an inscription found on the right wall stating that the re-creations were done by Mary Sue Wall-. Unfortunately (as previously mentioned in this blog), the auditorium stairs put in with the 2012 renovation cut off the second half.

This mystery renovation is the last major chunk of Uptown Theatre history that is not covered in this blog, and it's rather unfortunate that the investigation has hit a dead end. If any readers have information - or even memories - of when this change might have occurred and the reasons behind it, please leave a comment below.

Until then...

UPDATE (10/25/15)

"Minneapolis HPC asked the City Council for a one-year moratorium on building permits or demolition of six neighborhood movie theaters, including the Hollywood, to provide a chance to study their historic significance. The moratorium won preliminary approval on April 18, 1989, at a Minneapolis Zoning and Planning Committee meeting, where the 600-name petition was also presented. Ten days later, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to  support the one-year moratorium.” (from History of the Hollywood Part 2: Failed Development Efforts & Falling Plaster)

"HPC previously received from the City Council a demolition and building permit moratorium for the six theaters while the study and designation process takes place. During this moratorium period, HPC developed a working relationship with two theater owners (Avalon and Uptown) so that previously planned minor remodeling and necessary maintenance work could proceed." (from Preservation Matters, Feb. 1990: "Minneapolis Seeks Heritage Designation for Six Movie Theaters)

Given this information, it is possible that the renovation - occurring in the early 1990s - was not widely publicized because the Uptown had a deal to work on renovations during the moratorium while others did not.
(thanks to Katelyn Davidson)