Avalon Fine Arts Theater

1500 E. Lake Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55407

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Avalon Theater (Official)

Additional Info

Architects: Perry E. Crosier

Functions: Cultural Center, Live Performances

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: Avalon Theater, Fine Arts Theater

Nearby Theaters

Avalon Fine Arts Theater

Built on the site of the 1909 Royal Theatre, a wooden structure. In 1913 it was renamed Seventh Ward Theatre and was destroyed by fire on January 25, 1924. (later Seventh Ward Theatre/Rosebud Theatre, Reno Theatre). It was given a makeover in 1924 to the plans of architectural firm Ekman, Holm & Company and renamed Avalon Theatre. Seating was provided for 300 and it operated until 1936 when it was demolished. (this has its own page on Cinema Treasures).

In 1937 a new Avalon Theatre was built on the site to the plans of architect Perry E. Crosier which was given a Streamline Moderne style. The facade features an interesting hulking corner tower with neon light boxes.

It became the Fine Arts Theater from 1955. By 1982 and until 1985 it operated as an adult porn movie theatre, known as the Avalon Fine Arts Theater.

Since 1986 it has housed a theater puppet ‘company’ called ‘In the Heart of the Beast’. They create and perform large scale puppet performances. They are very active in the community and “employ” many volunteers and school children. The highlight of their year is the annual May Day parade.

It is a great renewal effort for a building that had become a nuisance to the community. The HOBT is wonderful program that is one of the gems of E. Lake Street.

Contributed by Sean Ryan

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

William on December 5, 2003 at 11:42 am

The Avalon Theatre seated around 1000 people.

kencmcintyre on August 29, 2006 at 2:40 pm

I’ve gone through the Minneapolis theaters and have found that the American, Vogue and East Lake are not listed. The Vogue was at Lake and Blaisdell, the American was on Nicollet and Lake and the East Lake was on 1537 East Lake Avenue, apparently across the street from the Avalon. If I’ve failed to account for any of the three under another listing, please let me know. Otherwise, I will add them as new theaters.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 9, 2009 at 7:05 pm

The “AIA Guide to the Twin Cities” by Larry Millett, published in 2007 by the Minnesota Historical Society, has more information on this theater. It was originally a smaller theater built in 1924 and designed by Ekman, Holm & Company. It was enlarged in 1937, and redesigned in the Art Moderne style by Perry Crosier. A 1997 renovation and restoration for the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre was done by Vincent James Associates Architects.

I’ve been unable to discover if the 1924 theater that was incorporated into Perry Crosier’s Avalon had the same name or not. The Avalon was owned by Bill Frank and Oscar Woempner, operators of about a dozen theaters in the area at the time of the 1937 rebuilding.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 9, 2009 at 10:38 pm

I’ve been unable to find out anything about the 1909 theater. It was probably demolished to make way for the 1924 building.

CJ1949 on September 9, 2012 at 12:04 am

The early name was ROSEBUD, believe it or not, long before Orson Welles came along. There was also a late 1920’s name, RENO, but this is unverified. Yes, there was a theatre on this site 1909-24 then the renovation in 1924 and then the art deco Crosier makeover in 1937 to a much larger theatre. The puppet company took it over in 1988. Porn lasted to 1985. The “Fine Arts” name was really just because the name Avalon fell off the marquee. It was always referred to as the “Avalon Fine Arts” in its porn days and advertised as such. The move to “Fine Arts” in 1955, starting with a run of Welles' “Othello” and migrating to an art/foreign policy which soon gave away to sex pictures and porn. Some of Russ Meyer’s early films were here, as well the usual nudist colony pictures, etc. “And God Created Woman” played at least 3 months in the summer of 1958 after the downtown run at the World. There would occasionally be a sex/horror type of film, for example Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace played as their Christmas attraction in 1965. “La Notte” played here too, and sometimes these “arty” films were double billed with a late-run Hollywood film, with the Hollywood film usually on the lower half of the bill. The theatre had an artesian well and a keystone problem that projectionists had to grapple with.

Hercules1944 on January 10, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Actually kencmcintre, the East Lake theater was over a block away just east of Bloomington Ave past the bank on the corner.

Would you believe back in the day it cost ten cents for Saturday matinees for the kids at either theater? That included yo-yo contests or whatever on stage, then newsreels. Then you had several cartoons like Mighty Mouse, Daffy Duck and such before the main show. Parents got a break for about three hours and the kids were more than happy.

In my high school years, when I had my own money, It was about 30 cents for matinees and maybe 40 cents at other times. Sure did some smooching in the balconies.

There was about six more theaters on Lake Street alone.

dallasmovietheaters on March 7, 2019 at 3:59 am

A little late to the party but can confirm that Joe Vogel is correct (10 years ago). The Royal Theatre burned down on January 25, 1924. Brandt and Dutton rebuilt a brick structure as the Rosebuds / Rosebud Theatre and Candy/Soda Shop in 1924 that became the Reno and Avalon. If the trade press is correct (and the pictures seem to indicate), the Avalon is a completely new build beginning on the lot on the corner which was a 1,000-seat venue while the previous building was not incorporated into the new Avalon and was razed.

As for the name of the former Rosebud theatre, it derives from the 1920 novel by Sinclair Lewis, “Main Street" and its adaptation to a 1923 feature film. In the novel, the name of the theatre in Gopher Prairie, Minnesota and on its first edition cover is the Rosebud Movie Palace. The film version prominently features the setting as the Rosebud Theatre.

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