American Theatre

16 E. Lake Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55408

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Additional Info

Architects: Jack J. Liebenberg

Firms: Liebenberg and Kaplan

Nearby Theaters

American Theatre
Contributed by Ken McIntyre

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

tjo on September 4, 2006 at 5:25 pm

The American Theater became notorious after it was converted into a porno house in 1968. The local Porn King bought all of the family owned businesses on that city block (that would sell to him) and converted them into sex businesses. In 1974, city leaders decided to demolish the six block area and build a regional shopping center on the site. Interstate 35 was built one block to the east of the theater in 1966 and city leaders thought it would be a good site for a mall. However, only a very large and ugly discount store and supermarket were built as the retail portion. The block and the theater became very notorious in the 1970’s and were demolished in 1975 to make way for the discount store’s parking lot. The local porn king moved his business eight blocks east to another previous neighbood theater, The Rialto Theater. He moved his sex stores four blocks east to a corner business that previously held a local drugstore for about 50 years. Each weekday over 100,000 motorists drive by the Lake and Nicollet area on Interstate 35 and have no idea the area was once the busiest traffic corner in the city with two nice theaters and over 60 family owned businesses. And the American Theater was the reason for that.

davmpls on August 10, 2007 at 8:03 am

In response to tjo, there are surely MORE than 60 family-owned business in that neighborhood and it remains one of the busiest intersections in the state.

I think you’ve overstated the role of Porn King Ferris Alexander in the life of the city. He occupied depressed, low-rent areas. He did NOT cause the economic depression at Lake-Nicollet or Lake-BLoomington and at Fourth Street. He may have been an opportunist, but he was only a business man. He did not drag these neighborhoods down. They were already “down”.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 17, 2009 at 4:47 pm

The American Theatre may have been designed by the Minneapolis architectural firm of Liebenberg and Kaplan. A pencil drawing of it is in the collection of the Liebenberg and Kaplan papers in the Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Whether the design was theirs, or one of them simply make a drawing of it for reference, as architects sometimes do, the dates the library’s index for the papers list with the entry for this theater are 1928-29 and 1931. If the theater is older than that, perhaps Liebenberg and Kaplan only did some remodeling work on it.

CJ1949 on September 9, 2012 at 1:33 am

Don’t have the building permit on this one, however the wrecking permit was May 1977. The theatre closed in April 1977, showing porn at the time. There were 2 screens by then, but the 2nd screen was a storefront, the theatre was not twinned. Liebenberg may have done something in here but probably nothing major. There was a 1942 makeover but the theatre was closed only 10 days so I doubt it was structurally altered. Ads said new seats were put in. In 1955 the marquee had to be pared down as did the other Lake Street theatres when the street was widened. American Amusement, Publix, Minnesota Amusement was all Paramount. This was one of the theatres Paramount dumped after the decree, they gave it up in 1954 and sold it to Joseph Podoloff. The downtown Gopher and Aster theatres were also ones that they sold off because of the decree.

The American’s booth was in the corner, so there was a keystone problem.

Like the Vogue/Stage 7 did in the late 1960s, the American occasionally showed classics before it was fashionable. In 1966 and ‘67 there were showings of Marx Bros. and Bogart pix. At the Stage 7 in 1969 there were showings of W. C. Fields features.

The American closed in Nov. 1967 and beginning here things get a little sketchy. There was a “grand opening” of the New American Oct 18, 1968 with “The Sound of Music”. The last advertising in the Minneapolis papers was 12/5/69, “Romeo and Juliet”. Then apparently it was closed for six months. Who the operator was during 1968-69 is unknown. The next ads came June 25, 1970 with “Midnight Cowboy” and “The Wild Wild World of Jayne Mansfield”. This is when porn king Ferris Alexander took over the theatre – one of the next bookings was “Man and Wife” which set off some controversy in the city.

At this same time the Franklin and Empress theatres were being changed to porno by Alexander. In 1968-69, he had transitioned the Rialto Theatre on Lake Street too. The Aster and Avalon theatres were already into adult fare by that time. The city of Mpls. paid Alexander $325,000 for the American Theatre in 1977.

chrispaulson on September 28, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Here’s a link to an obscenity case involving Ferris Alexander regarding a film shown at the American Theater in 1976:

Caatsa on February 4, 2013 at 6:39 pm

I remember going to see movies there in the late 60s. ( before porn). I lived across te street .. My dad would give us .50c. 35 to get in, 5c for soda, popcorn and candy bar. …
The old golden gloves was in the corner building on lake st. And 31st ave.

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