Brainerd Theatre

122 S. 6th Street,
Brainerd, MN 56401

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Additional Info

Architects: Jack J. Liebenberg

Firms: Liebenberg and Kaplan

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: Brainerd 1 & 2

Nearby Theaters

BRAINERD Theatre, Brainerd, Minnesota (1947)

Located in the Art Moderne-style Baehr Building (built in 1936) on S. 6th Street near Front Street, the Brainerd Theatre, when it opened in 1938, originally was a single screen theatre seating 1,000. The Baehr Building, besides the movie theatre, also housed offices, apartments, and retail space. The Brainerd Theatre was later twinned and was closed in December 1985.

It was converted into a roller skating rink. The Baehr Building was demolished in 1999 and replaced by a parking lot.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

kencmcintyre on December 19, 2005 at 6:10 pm

Should we forgo the Fargo jokes? Ubetcha.

kencmcintyre on January 27, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Here is a photo being advertised on eBay:

kencmcintyre on September 7, 2007 at 8:27 pm

This theater was part of the Home Theaters Co. in the early sixties, headquartered out of Brainerd. Other Home theaters at the time were the Ely in Ely, the Border and Grand in International Falls, the Park in Park Rapids and the Avalon and Falls theaters in Thief River Falls. Home president was Frank Mantzke.

kencmcintyre on September 19, 2007 at 10:23 am

Here is a June 1954 ad from the Brainerd Daily Dispatch:

kencmcintyre on December 17, 2008 at 10:30 pm

This is a 1948 photo being advertised on eBay:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 17, 2009 at 7:50 pm

The Brainerd Theatre was designed by the Minneapolis architectural firm Liebenberg & Kaplan.

LouRugani on August 19, 2012 at 7:37 am


December 6, 1968


Arising out of a fire and explosion in a building owned by defendants E. J. Baehr and M. S. Baehr and leased to defendant Bonita Amusement Company, Inc. One action was for personal injuries sustained by Richard Raymond, an employee of one of the tenants of the building; the other action was for personal property damage sustained by William Peabody and other tenants. The cases were tried together before John T. Galarneault, Judge, and a jury, which returned verdicts for plaintiffs against defendant Bonita Amusement Company only. Said company appealed from the judgment entered in each case upon the basis of stipulated damages.

On December 28, 1964, a fire occurred in the Baehr Building constructed and owned by defendants E. J. Baehr and M. S. Baehr. Bonita Amusement Company, Inc. was the prime lessee of the Baehr Building and was responsible for the repair and maintenance of the building. Actions were brought by the sublessees who sustained property damage and the employee of the lessee who suffered personal injuries from the fire and explosion. The issue was whether the fire was due to the negligence of defendants.

The jury returned verdicts against Bonita and Bonita appealed. The plaintiffs asserted that the fire originated in the negligently maintained incinerator system of the building, either from fire escaping from its defective burning chamber and igniting combustible material on the floors directly above it or from intense heat in its deteriorated flue igniting a wood meter cabinet adjacent to it on the second floor, and that regardless of such origin the fire’s damaging spread was due to three other negligent acts or conditions for which Bonita was responsible: A recurring prevalence of smoke from the defective incinerator system lulled the plaintiffs into complacency concerning the hazard of an existing fire; Bonita’s caretaker, in opening the door to the meter cabinet, then engulfed in flames, permitted the fire to burst out into general conflagration; and Bonita had its own responsibility for permitting the existence of a wood-framed ventilation duct, negligently constructed by defendants Baehr, along which the fire traveled across the building to the point where the building exploded.

The Baehr Building was a three-story structure which, with the exception of exterior walls and masonry floors and firewalls on the first floor, was constructed primarily of wood. It was equipped with an inside incinerator system, located toward the west end of the building. The burning chamber of the incinerator was in the basement and its flue rose vertically through the building to the roof. On each of the three floors there was a small door to the incinerator flue, into which tenants dropped combustible trash to the burning chamber below. Adjacent to the flue, on the second floor, was a meter cabinet made of wood. At the top of the flue was a wire screen to trap materials rising from the burning chamber.

The incinerator system had not been adequately maintained. Brick had fallen from the upper part of the burning chamber, creating an 8-by-10-inch opening at the upper rear wall of the chamber, and some of the brick inside the chamber was cracked. The interior of the burning chamber and flue had never been inspected, and no repair work had been performed upon the system in 11 years. Its flue was deteriorated as far as an observer could see above the level of the basement ceiling; the brick lining of the flue, which was not constructed of firebrick, was about 2 inches less thick than the 12-inch thickness indicated in the original blueprints. The wire screen atop the flue may have been clogged, for, although it was necessary for the caretaker to clean the flue out about once a month to avoid backup of smoke into the building, it had not been cleaned in 2 months and a smoky condition had existed in the building for some hours prior to the fire. The fire’s origin was somewhere in the immediate area of the incinerator system below the third floor of the building.

Fire had existed in the incinerator on the day of the fire. Due to the Christmas weekend there was an unusual amount of trash for incineration, and it was burned by Bonita’s caretaker from about 9 o'clock until about 10 o'clock in the morning. There was evidence, including charred wires above the burning chamber, from which a jury could find that intense heat or flame escaped through the hole in the burning chamber. The ultimate inference, the difficult one in this case, would be that this heat or fire was transmitted to the second floor to the meter cabinet where the fire was discovered in full flame at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, a little more than 4 hours after the morning’s trash burning.

The jury had before it a multiplicity of theories as to the origin of the fire and theories as to the spread of the fire, and was unable to ascertain upon what basis the jury found that defendant Bonita was negligent.

LouRugani on August 19, 2012 at 7:49 am

Baehr Theaters Co. came from Bemidji and erected the theatre block.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm

The finding aid to the Libernberg & Kaplan papers at the University of Minnesota lists the Brainerd Theatre as a 1937 project.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 12, 2017 at 2:42 pm

The Brainerd Theatre closed in December, 1985, and the building was remodeled for use as a roller skating rink. It was Brainerd’s last downtown theater, the Paramount having closed in September, 1985.

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