Perusing the Twitter boards today in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, I see that a lot of people are going to the Riverview Theater tonight to see a presentation of the classic holiday movie, “A Christmas Story.” It’s playing right now (5:00 PM) and at 7:00 PM tonight, if you haven’t made any plans for this evening yet and you’re looking for something to do. After all this cold weather we’ve had, it just might be worth it to get out of the house for a while! So, in light of the looming holiday and this great activity that is going on tonight, I thought that I might write a little bit about the Riverview Theater, located at 3800 42nd Avenue South in Minneapolis.
The Riverview Theater was built in the late 1940s by Sidney and William Volk, who wanted to replace the aging Falls Theater that had been located on Minnehaha Avenue. They arranged to have Jacob J. Liebenberg & Seeman Kaplan, the premier theater architects of that period, build what was to be one of the finest theaters of the time period.
Libenberg and Kaplan designed over 200 theaters throughout the Midwest during their careers. The pair created the Granada (Suburban World, 1927-28), the Wayzata (1932), the Edina (1934), the Hollywood (1935), the Uptown (1937), the Varsity (1938). And those are just the ones that are still standing!
When the Riverview Theater opened on December 30, 1948, it was such a notable event that the story was featured in national publications. The first movie shown to an audience there was June Bride, starring Bette Davis and Robert Montgomery.
Many theaters have come and gone, and 60 years later (almost to the date!), the Riverview has survived. It looks much the same as it did in the 1950s, as it still has the same furnishings! It looks absolutely stunning and there are some great pictures on the theater’s site if you would like to take a look. You can take sort of a virtual tour of the Riverview Theater here.
Now, if you’re afraid of going because you don’t want to shell out a bunch of money to see a movie on a 60-year-old projector, sitting in uncomfortable, old seats, fear not. There have been some changes at Riverview. A state-of-the-art projection and sound system installed. Additionally, new rocker seats with lift-up cup-holder arm-rests were installed in 2007. You can watch little Ralphie almost shoot his eye out in comfort!
By the way, if you were thinking you could catch the movie tomorrow, Wednesday’s movie is a decidedly much-less festive, “Religulous”, so get out there tonight if you want to see a good family holiday movie in an authentic 1950s style theater.