The golden age of blockbuster movies produced by major Hollywood studios is over. Only five major studios have survived, producing familiar stories with conservative casting. Modern technology has made it possible to produce films much more cheaply. This has resulted in an increase of independent professional filmmakers over the years. As a result, the world has witnessed an abundance of films marked by unique personal artistic vision. These unique films can rival the quality of any mainstream film given necessary funding and distribution. Unfortunately, risk-averse major theater chains will show only the newest, most popular films, leaving independent theaters and film festivals as the only connection between the filmmaker and the cinephile. Here are five of the best indie theaters in Minnesota, the only place where one can catch the best of the past and the most creative of the new.
3951 Central Ave. N.E.
Columbia Heights, MN 55421
A show-biz legacy since 1926 and an indie icon today, the Heights Theatre remains the Cities’ longest continually operating movie house. “Tom Letness has done an incredible job restoring and programming the Heights since taking over in 1998,” says Take-up Productions Programmer Barry Kryshka. The theater alone is worth the visit with its grand Beaux Arts style inside and out. Restoration features a 16×26-foot proscenium stage, chandeliers and the WCCO Wurlitzer Organ. Be sure to arrive in a timely manner because the Heights does not impose on its patrons with endless advertisements and previews before the main feature.
3800 42nd Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55406
Every cinephile’s favorite, the Riverview Theater is owned and operated by Loren Williams and a great staff. This beautiful theater proudly displays its opening-night telegrams from Rosalind Russell, William Holden and Kim Novak sending congratulations on the 1950s remodeling of the Riverview.“Picnic” was the first film shown after the theater was given its classic 1950s look. The original opening of the theater on December 30, 1948 was a prominent event, recognized in national publications as among the most superb theaters of the day. The first show presented was “June Bride,” starring Bette Davis and Robert Montgomery. The theater boasts a sound system better than most in the Twin Cities.
Pepito’s Parkway Theater
4814 Chicago Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55417
Pepito’s Parkway Theater has been advertised as “one of the finest independent and offbeat film venues in the Midwest” since 1972 when Bill Irvine rescued it from its bawdry adult film days. Joe Minjares now provides lots of creative non-movie programming and stage events with full food and beverage service.
3258 Minnehaha Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
For classic and independent film screenings six nights a week, year-round, check out the Trylon Microcinema in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood. Take-Up Productions, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, has screened over 500 films since 2006. Moviegoers can view Trylon premiers, micro series and other themed collections of classic cinema on a 20-foot screen relaxing in the luxurious comfort of 50 rocker seats.
222 E. Superior St.
Duluth, MN 55802
The Zinema is worth a journey to Duluth. Part of Zeitgeist Arts, Zinema 2 shares a facility with Zeitgeist Arts Café and Teatro Zuccone all under one roof in Downtown Duluth, MN. Thanks to the A.H. Zeppa Family Foundation, this complex is a focal point of avant garde arts and entertainment.
Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from Richfield High School and then the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for Examiner.com, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at Examiner.com.