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)

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