Monday, July 4, 2016

Goodbye, Uptown Theatre

Goodbye, Uptown Theatre
(Joseph Larsen, 2012)

The first screening I ever attended at the Uptown Theatre was a midnight show of Omega Man on August 12, 2004. I began working there nine days later.

The pre-renovated Uptown was my favorite place in the world. The feel, the atmosphere, the personality - all simply unmatched. The above video was shot during the final week before its 2012 closure, with the auditorium camera shot placed right next to my favorite chair (ground-level, left side, furthest-back aisle seat). The music is "Liu Lien" by Yao Lee, from Tsai Ming Liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn, a film that best expresses my thoughts of the old Uptown.

It was the theater's renovation and subsequent loss of film projection that motivated me to pursue a career in film & video archiving. During my tenth anniversary of employment, I created this blog as a side project to document the rich history of the building. So much was scattered around the Twin Cities in a number of archives, not to mention unorganized boxes and file cabinets in the Uptown itself. On the eve of my departure, however, it was all put together for a 100-year anniversary. I can't think of a better sendoff than this history being brought back to the Uptown and its moviegoing community.

And now, for the heck of it, my five favorite screenings during my twelve years at the Uptown:

Aliens (08.29.09)
A routine midnight screening made special by the legendary Rock & Roll Ray. The pre-show revealed that he had an actual alien to show the crowd but had unfortunately escaped, and then, about 30 minutes into the film during its first major action sequence, Ray emerged dressed as an alien and battled his cohorts on stage. It was something straight out of a William Castle experience, and it was glorious.

Che (01.16.09)
This special cinematic experience put together both parts of Steven Soderbergh's epic into a combined roadshow release. There were no ads, trailers, or credits, just a five-minute musical overture over a map of Cuba before the film and a souvenir program listing cast and crew information for each audience member. A rare moment where attending a film felt like a true event.

Fantasia (08.12.11)
Screenings of Disney repertory films are quite rare, as steep prices and strict regulations tend to keep bookers at bay. I took it upon myself, however, to convince Landmark higher-ups that Fantasia would indeed make its money back, which it accomplished with the added help of weekend matinee shows. Few films look more spectacular on the big screen.

Spooktacular! (01.28.06)
My favorite midnight selection. While its centerpiece was the public domain classic Night of the Living DeadSpooktacular! was preceded by over a half hour of old horror movie trailers and animated shorts. Wildly entertaining and everything that a good midnight movie experience should provide.

Zatoichi 5 (08.28.04)
While Omega Man was my first film at the Uptown, it was my third - Zatoichi 5 - that first made it sink in that I was now surrounded in a movie screening paradise. Who would think to play the 5th Zatoichi film? I never found out if it was the only title available or was chosen at random, but sitting in the darkness with a scant few others, I knew that this place was somewhere special.

I wish those who never experienced the Uptown before its 2012 renovation could've seen it, and I hope those who did hold on to its memory. It sure was a beauty.

Monday, June 27, 2016

New Minneapolis Movie House

Minneapolis Tribune, 03.12.16
via Hennepin History Museum

Biggest Movies

The Blair Witch Project is generally the title brought up in conversation when discussing the largest movie opening at the Uptown Theatre. This is absolutely correct, but what's less known is the remainder of the top ten. This list goes between November 1985 and June 2016 and is not adjusted for inflation:

Largest Grossing Weeks
1. Blair Witch Project (07.16.99)
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (01.12.01)
3. Royal Tenenbaums (12.21.01)
4. Crying Game (01.08.93)
5. Grand Budapest Hotel (03.14.14)
6. A Mighty Wind (04.16.03)
7. Juno (12.14.07)
8. About Schmidt (12.20.02)
9. Fargo (03.08.96)
10. Pan's Labyrinth (01.19.07)

The remainder of the top 25 paint an intriguing picture of the 1990s independent scene, as many others are period pictures (The Piano, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and Enchanted April). The most surprising entry (to me, anyway) is 2000's The Endurance. The largest grossing re-release is Casablanca in 1992, just making the list at #25.

The longest a movie ever stayed at the Uptown is Sex, Lies, & Videotape for 8 weeks in 1989. This is followed by both The Piano in 1993 and In Bruges in 2008 at 7 weeks each.

As for midnights, the top ten are dominated by two screenings of The Room where Tommy Wiseau appeared in person and the Halloween weekend shows of Rocky Horror Picture Show. If one were to go just by titles, however:

Largest Grossing Midnight Films
1. The Room (11.20.10)
2. Rocky Horror Picture Show (10.29.10)
(then the other Room & Rocky Horror Halloween screenings)
3. The Goonies (11.15.03)
4. Donnie Darko (01.03.04)
5. Nightmare Before Christmas (10.25.03)
6. Neverending Story (01.06.01)
7. Princess Bride (07.22.00)
8. Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Animation (04.29.00)
9. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (11.08.03)
10. Spirited Away (01.01.16)

While the least attended film at the Uptown is unknown (Not Another Gay Movie & The New Girlfriend are my best guesses), Grumpy Old Men was the least attended midnight on 08.18.01.

Ultimate Destruction of the Uptown Theatre

After the Uptown Theatre closed for renovations on 01.31.12, plans were for construction to lay waste and clear out the lobby and auditorium. On 02.05.12, the night before the crew would be starting, employees past and present gathered to help in the proceedings.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Rock & Roll Ray

The legendary Rock & Roll Ray was an icon of the Minneapolis cinema scene, bringing his horror host talents to a multitude of local theaters along with weekly appearances on public access. The first event he hosted at the Uptown was Nightmare on Elm Street 3 on 10.25.08, with ten other screenings consisting of Aliens, Audition, Dr. Strangelove, Evil Dead, The Jerk, John Carpenter's The Thing, Spooktacular!, Thirst, Troll 2, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Uptown Tower (2009)

While this photo was taken of a graffiti tag from the 07.25.09 midnight screening of Thrashin', it accurately documents the condition of the Uptown tower prior to the 2012 renovation.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


During the Che Roadshow Edition


This particular post mentions that they come from the ECCO News Photograph Collection that will be available online later this summer, so hopefully there will be more images to post at that time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Anniversary Week

Opening Night (06.03.16)

Cake donated by Yum! Bakery

Banners courtesy of the University of Minnesota
Mannequins in 1920s dress courtesy of the Hennepin History Museum 

Tour presented by Preserve Minneapolis & the Preservation Alliance of MN

 Joseph Larsen & Rich Gill introduce The Women
Anniversary Displays

Rocky Horror Controversy

We, the regulars of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Undersigned individuals in attendance on February 20th, 1993, wish to express our discontent with the current plans for cast. We feel that since we represent the majority of the regularly attending audience that we should have the say in the cast that has been traditionally given to us.
The proposed plan for the cast would deprive the audience of an experienced cast for, as of yet, an undetermined time period. We, the undersigned, feel that we can provide an experienced cast within a two week alotment. (March 13th, 1993) If this plan of action is disagreeable with you (the management of the Uptown Theater) then we, the undersigned, would rather not have a cast at all.
(found enclosed in a professional red folder - 30 signatures followed)

Rocky Horror Rules

The following are the Uptown Theatre's Rules for Rocky:

1. Nobody on the stage (other than the cast).
2. Do NOT throw anything at the screen.
3. No Men in the Women's Room/No Women in the Men's Room.
4. No standing on the seats.
5. No flames in the auditorium.

(from a memorandum dated 08.03.93)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Film Calendars (1982-1983)

These old Uptown film calendars are from an era when different double-features were screened every day and provide a fascinating glimpse into film audiences of the particular time and place. Click on the images for a better look.




Friday, May 6, 2016

1939 Opening

Smoking Permitted in Balcony!

Ample Free Parking!

Mystifying 'Black Light!'

From James Lilek's 'What Was Suburban in 1939? Uptown'
Minneapolis Star Tribune, 09.17.09
"A piece of the World's Fair come to Uptown"

Friday, March 25, 2016

MSPIFF at the Uptown

For the first time since their closing night Murderball screening in 2005, the Uptown Theatre is a venue for the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival. Movies play between April 8-14, 2016.

4:45 - A Decent Man
7:00 - They Will Have to Kill Us First (Songhoy Blues in attendance)
9:50 - Serial Killer 1

11:00 - The New Classmate
1:10 - Locking the Cage
3:15 - Kill Me Please
5:30 - Valley of Love
7:30 - My Big Night
9:45 - Alena

11:30 - Speed Sisters
1:30 - 600 Miles
3:30 - The Fencer
6:00 - Vore King (Dan S. & R.P. Whalen in attendance)
9:15 - Endorphine

4:30 - Belgian Rhapsody
7:00 - Here is Harold
9:45 - The Invitation

4:45 - Blush
7:10 - Presenting Princess Shaw (Samantha Montgomery in attendance)
9:30 - Tale of Tales

4:30 - Eisenstein in Guanajuato
7:00 - Women He's Undressed
9:15 - The Seeker (Jeff D. Johnson & Cloud Cult in attendance)

4:45 - One Floor Below
7:00 - Beeba Boys (Deepa Mehta & David Hamilton in attendance)
10:00 - Mad Tiger

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Hail Mary

Minneapolis Star and Tribune, 04/13/86

Hail Mary Stolen (from Reading Eagle, 4/9/86)
Thieves broke into a theater and stole a copy of "Hail Mary," the controversial French film about a modern-day Madonna, the theater manager said.

Canisters holding the Jean-Luc Godard film were taken early Monday after 3,000 people packed the theater over the weekend to see the movie protesters have called tasteless and blasphemous. The film depicts Mary as a gas station attendant and Joseph as a taxi driver, and includes frontal nudity.

The thieves also damaged two projectors, breaking light bulbs worth $750 each, said Tom Ladd, manager of the Uptown Theater.

The theft forced the cancellations of three shows, but Ladd said the corporation that owns the theater was flying another copy of the film in from California for today's shows.

Ladd predicted the break-in would boost interest in the film, which he said has drawn crowds three times larger than most Godard films.

About 40 people picketed the Uptown on Friday, opening night.