History Magazine

The Heights... Historic Movie Theater Gem with Live Pipe Organ Music

By Homesmsp @HomesMSP

The Heights Theater is the Twin Cities longest continuously operated show house. Established in 1926 during the prohibition, it showcased local theater and vaudeville acts in addition to movies in its early years. Meticulously restored in 1998-2005 to its former glory, this theater is now a community treasure specializing in first-run family films, classics, foreign releases, live entertainment and organ concerts Friday and Saturday nights.


The Heights Theater survived at least three fires, one bombing and a tornado, and when Tom Letness and Dave Holmgren bought the Heights Theatre in November 1998 it looked like a big turquoise box... with all its beautiful detailing stripped and/or covered over by multiple remodels over the years. 

Through historic photos and original blueprints archived at the University of Minnesota they painstakingly restored it to the gem it is today, and along the way also purchased and restored the Dairy Queen next door.

One of the outstanding features of the theater auditiorium is the beautiful antique chandeliers c. 1914, which came from a big movie house in Texas that was destroyed in the 1950s. The chandeliers also needed restoration, which included importing over 2500 lead crystals from Egypt.


During the restoration they discovered that the chambers for the pipe organ were still there, covered since a 1936 remodel. That provided a home for the mighty 4-manual Wurlitzer pipe organ from WCCO radio which highlights Friday and Saturday nights at the theater... no paid advertising before the movie, instead you are treated to a live concert!

We saw Midnight in Paris when we were there last week, a perfect fit for both the movie and our recent San Francisco visit where we saw both Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso exhibits.

In keeping with their showing of classic films, they are also currently screening some classic Billy Wilder movies including Some Like It Hot showcased in the Italian poster in the photo above.

Visit The Heights Theater at 3951 Central Ave NE, Columbia Heights, MN 55421... and stop for a Dairy Queen next door before or after the show. Click here to see homes for sale near this historic corner. (Please be patient while the link searches for the most current listings...pass your cursor over the dots on the map or scroll down for property information.)

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results - Email - Twin Cities Realtor


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