Hollywood Theater

The now-vacant Hollywood Theater at 2815 Johnson Street NE is a prominent landmark, and part of the history and lore of the Audubon Park Neighborhood. Its restoration and reuse have been priorities of the Audubon Neighborhood Association for the last two decades.

The Hollywood was a movie theater from 1935 until 1987, but has stood vacant since then. In 1990, the Theater was designated a local historic landmark. In 1993 it was purchased by the City of Minneapolis. While several attempts to reuse the Theater failed during the 1990s and early 2000s, the City, in consultation with Hillcrest Development and ANA, made multiple improvements to help make the building more attractive for reuse.

The Hollywood Theater
Photo courtesy Liebenberg and Kaplan Collection, Northwest Architectural Archives, Elmer A. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Historical Context

Designed by architects Liebenberg and Kaplan, the Streamline Moderne style theater had an original budget of $44,000, which allowed for generous handling of decorative elements. Liebenberg and Kaplan’s solutions to the acoustical problems in building a theater for sound established their reputation as movie theater experts.

The Hollywood opened in 1935 and showed movies until 1987. In that year, a designation study was undertaken to protect the structure from demolition. A consultant’s report issued in 1989 recommended that the Hollywood Theater, including its interior, be designated as a local historic landmark. Landmark designation was granted in 1990. The nomination cites the significance of the Theater’s architecture, the master architects who designed it, and its social history.

Both the exterior and interior are designated, except for the marquee (replaced in 1948), and some of the non-public interior spaces. In 1991 the City’s Heritage Preservation Commission adopted a document providing guidelines for rehabilitation of historic movie theaters, which included guidelines specifically tailored to the Hollywood Theater. In 1993, the City of Minneapolis purchased the building and pursued several attempts at redevelopment over the years. None were successful. For additional background information on the Theater, please refer to a recent report entitled "The Hollywood Theater: Preservation Considerations" (.pdf)

Recent Stabilization Efforts

In November 2008, the City of Minneapolis bought the property adjacent to the Theater, at 2819 Johnson, and cleared the site to support redevelopment of the Theater. The extra space was required for code compliance and to provide service access necessary to any contemplated reuse. In March 2009, the Heritage Preservation Commission approved a framework for treating the character defining features of the Theater and set of improvements to the Theater.

The City has budgeted funds for stabilization and staging of the Theater to attract qualified developers. Among these investments are an updated electrical service, removal and salvaging of seats, replacing projection booth exterior windows, rehabilitating the marquee, and replacing lights. Taken together, these improvements will make the vacant property more marketable. ANA commends these efforts, particularly the City’s willingness to fund the improvements and increase its marketing efforts. ANA will keep the community informed of the progress. Check here, or in our newsletter, for the latest details on the work to renew our neighborhood’s idle landmark:

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