Varsity Theater

1308 4th Street SE,
Minneapolis, MN 55414

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Varsity Theater (Official)

Additional Info

Architects: Jack J. Liebenberg

Firms: Liebenberg and Kaplan

Functions: Concerts

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: University Theater

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 612.604.0222

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News About This Theater

1976 photo courtesy of the Old Minneapolis Facebook page.

The theater is located in Dinkytown, the neighborhood commercial district surrounding the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus. It opened in 1915 as the University Theater. In 1939, it was remodeled by Liebenberg & Kaplan in Art Moderne style and renamed the Varsity Theater when it reopened on April 21, 1939. It operated until sometime in the 1980’s.

After it closed, a fierce battle raged over whether to turn it into a club or music venue. Those plans didn’t go through and the Varsity Theater housed a photo studio for some time. The auditorium was gutted to make way for lighting, backdrops, props, etc. The lobby and exterior elements such as the marquee and vertical were completely restored.

The theater reopened in January 2005 as a concert hall.

Contributed by Sean Ryan

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

PeteScholtes on January 27, 2005 at 12:58 pm

I’m putting together a history of the Varsity and would love to talk to all of you, but don’t seem to be able to email you by clicking on your names. If you’d like, email me at

Sean Ryan
Sean Ryan on April 8, 2005 at 12:07 pm

The Varsity is Alive again!

Thank You Mr. Mclean-

Marvelous Job!

zooklaw on May 18, 2006 at 7:36 am

The Varsity Theater is managed by the staff of the neighboring Loring Pasta Bar.

kencmcintyre on June 14, 2006 at 3:36 pm

This is a January 2005 article about the re-opening of the Varsity:

GeorgeStrum on August 1, 2006 at 5:17 am

Next summer the Theatre Historical Society may be visiting this theatre.

dmmaasch on May 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I was manager of the Varsity and the Campus theatres during the 1970’s, a great time to work in that area. I still have the original blueprints from 1915 and the remodeling prints from 1939. In the early 1970’s, General Cinema remodeled it to their company style

DavidZornig on November 24, 2015 at 4:05 pm

1976 photo added courtesy of the Old Minneapolis Facebook page.

rivest266 on January 15, 2017 at 12:30 pm

April 21st, 1939 grand opening ad in the photo section.

Sean Ryan
Sean Ryan on May 27, 2018 at 11:48 am

Sadly, Jason McClean spent the last decade ruining the art moderne interior with his awful brand of 1980s bohemian chic, and has now fled the country because of child molestation charges. The theater is under new ownership. Great old photos here showing before and afters of the 1930s remodeling:

DavidZornig on November 27, 2019 at 7:37 am

Varsity vertical sign on the far right in 1974, in below link.

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