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The Terrace Theater in Robbinsdale, Minnesota (1951-1999)

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Perhaps in this age of the antiseptic multiplex atmosphere and assorted corporate banalities that ensue, the diamond concept of the movie theater as a sort of makeshift cathedral for filmgoing worship doesn’t exist anymore. I know my golden era of cinema awareness came at the twilight of the mall multiplex craze, where I was still able to enjoy a few of the decaying treasures of previous moviegoing trends before their eventual demolition. At the time I visited these gems, I just lived in the moment, barely able to process anything besides purchasing a cheap ticket and an oily bucket of popcorn. Nowadays I yearn for the theaters of my youth, especially when visiting the soulless moviegoer farms that pass for cinemas today.

Last month, while delighting in my time at home in Minneapolis for the holidays, I stole a few subzero moments and drove cautiously over to the Terrace Theater, located in the confused ‘burb of Robbinsdale. Closed since 1999, the theater has been left to endure the brutal Minnesota winters and summers without any sort of passionate caretaker, with only crude sheets of cracked wood to keep squatters and troublemakers out. Certainly the theater deserved a far more respectable fate than this.

I have fond memories of my brief time with the Terrace. While it wasn’t a neighborhood destination for me, the theater represented a piece of the city’s past “modern” glory, proudly utilizing a single screen and sprawling balcony layout (1300 seats in all) from its grand opening in 1951 to the 1990s, when new management turned a single glorious screen into three, thus removing any crucial individuality and sending the theater down a path to assured ruin.

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Seeing the theater now, a decrepit, frostbitten shadow of its former self evoked many indefinable feelings within me. Nostalgia has that puzzling effect on my soul, especially around dead movie theaters. The Terrace is where I biked as a pup with my dear friends and watched double features of pictures such as “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Adventures in Babysitting,” and I fell madly in love not with Elizabeth Shue, but with perhaps the most euphoric opening credits I’ve even seen kickstart a film. It’s where I witnessed the trailer for “Robocop” and wondered why the hell something called “Robocop” was rated R, thus keeping it out my grubby hands for another long decade of puberty blues. The Terrace is also where I viewed “The Princess Bride” and wondered then what I wonder now: what exactly is it about that movie that bewitches people so completely? I even lost my virginity there. To a pearl of a woman named Gloria. She worked the concession stand, about 50 years of age if the sun hit her correctly…I kid. This is back when girls, with the possible exception of Elizabeth Shue, were icky.


The Terrace lobby was cavernous, fertile, and held a lounge specifically constructed for television viewing, bravely reminding visitors of the now seriously square 1950’s origin of the structure. The foyer welcomed visitors with opulence and architectural bravado, providing visual stimulation before the big show began. Unlike today’s big box cinemas that immediately divide attendees once past the sullen excuse for an usher, the Terrace was a communal experience that began once you parked (or locked up your bike) and lasted all the way through the reflective ride home. There were a few places of such unreal moviegoing luxury spread around Minneapolis, but the Terrace was so alien in its design and location that to this day people don’t know what the hell to do with it.

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After the great divide into a triplex, things were never the same at the Terrace. Watching films in the main theater felt cramped, with this huge screen disorienting the audience with its unnatural sight and sound, unable to spread itself out as easily as before. And the two tiny “balcony” theaters? Forget it. It was like watching a film inside a boxcar, with balsa wood used to divide the houses, making acoustics even worse. The Terrace dream was shattered forever.

In the autumn of 1998, I attended a showing of “Lethal Weapon 4” on a whim there, as if to visit a dying friend. The friend was in complete disarray and unable to greet me back with any sort of recognizable enthusiasm, making for a troublesome night of aching memories and a developing sense of anger. I didn’t know it was going to be the last film I would see at the Terrace, but in my heart I recognized I wouldn’t be back. It just wasn’t the same castle that once awed me into popcorn-munching paralysis. I couldn’t bear the heartache, so I never returned.

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In 2009, the Terrace is a dirty, rusted shell waiting for somebody to come along and casually tear it down. From what I’ve read and heard, most of the interior is gutted, the rest molded over. It will never be a movie theater again, and that’s a shame. A reality, but a shame. Still, as long as it stands I will try to visit the Terrace as much as I possibly can, perhaps showing more enthusiasm than I would with my own family. There’s simply too much history there to let it slip away due to my normal state of indifference. Goddamn I miss that movie theater.      

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Please click here for a 2011 update!

Please click here for a 2013 update!


Jay B.

My life was changed at the Terrace. The year 1988, the movie Die Hard. Oh, and my parents took me to see Dirty Dancing there. Seriously, I have many fond memories of the Terrace. Wasn't there a copper waterfall at the entrance of the main auditorium? At least the Cooper was torn down before it met the same fate as the Terrace, but that is a whole different and shameful story.

mike Oakvik

May 25, 1977... I vividly remember sitting down front and reading, in awesome wonder, the words scrolling across the screen, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." May the force be with you!
Good times.....!


As I Sit and look at the Terrace Theater Photos, tears roll down my aged face at the sight of horror. My beloved companion & true confidant that majestically got me through the late 50's and all of the 60's has now been assaulted, raped & pillaged - those bastards! Now Left bleeding in the cold and in despair, I can only hope someone will come to its rescue... with honor. As my heart is ripped from my chest and my comrade lies dying in the snow, I will say to him: I will not forget what you've given me... my comrade, I will not forget!


My Grandma has lived across the street from that theater since my mom was 12. My mom worked there, all of her siblings whent to movies there, myself, siblings, and all of my cousins loved to go there!!! My mom would tell me stories of sitting on the long back steps smoking when she was a teenager. The funs times I had with all of my cousins there are wonderful memories. I wish it could be preserved. In the final days of the theater, they showed $1 movies. It was always something to do when going over to Grandma's and instead of sitting in her living room, we would see a movie. My Grandma passed 2 months ago but our family still owns the house and someone is always there. It will be hard to ever leave that town knowing that since the theater left, the spirit of Robbinsdale did too. Thank you for this beautiful post!

Michael Nelson

I was watching a movie on Netflix that I ran across, Mondo Cane. My parents took me to The Terrace to see it in 1962 whe we first moved to Minneapolis. I don't like that movie any more now than I did then. Remember being bored and going to the TV lounge - yes, they had a TV lounge for kids! it's my earliest memory of the Terrace, and over the years - through high school, college and young adulthood - I saw a gazillion movies there. How many times I drove by the outside marquee eager to see what was playing and then making my weekend movie plans!

Thank you for your post and the accompanying photos. It's sad to see what's happened to our old friend. Anyone want to start a campaign to "Restore the Terrace"?

kris sivanich

Yes!!! Someone really should restore this wonderful old theater into the showcase it used to be...there are too many memories here for it to be torn down.

Aaron Roufs

I LOVED that theatre. I actually used to work there when I turned 16 yrs old that was in 1995 I think. I remeber seeing Beauty and The Beast there, and Star Wars when they were re-released in 1997 admisted a whole host of other films while I worked there. I remember taking a flashlight and walking through all 3 theatres during the movies. The head usher was a guy named Tony. One of the craziest things I did while working there was one night late, a co-worker and I actually found the access to the ladder that lead up to the top of the theatre where the Terrace sign is. I actually climb up the entire not so sturdy ladder and open up the top hatch and stepped out. It was one of the collest feelings and things I remember from that beloved theatre. If I had the money I would buy it myself and restore it!! Long Live Terrace Theatre!!!

Brian Duchscher

I worked there from 1970 to 1972 as an usher/porter. My mother worked for the Volk brothers as a cashier at both the Camden and the Terrace from the 1950's on. It was one of my duties to polish the copper, sweep the spilled popcorn, mop up the vomit, change the towel rolls in the rest rooms and to change the film titles on the marquis (Main building, Broadway and Hwy. 52 Island signs), rip tickets, seat folks, and aim my flashlight at people who put their feet on the seats in front or who where smoking outside of the smoking loge. The pay outright sucked, but the benefits were great. Never had to pay for a movie date, popcorn, soda or hot-dogs. I'm sure Sid Volk would not want to hear that. I met a lot of people I worked with who became great friends and I will NEVER forget those two years. I too wish it would re-open. I'd come back for that.

Lon Peterson

I worked for Sidney Volk in 1973-1974 as the manager of the Riverview Theatre and we had weekly meetings at the Terrace. My goodness what a beautiful theatre. The Volk brothers also owned The Nile, The Camden along with a few other theatres in the Twin Cities. For a Real treat check out The Riverview Theatre in Minneapolis, it will be like a trip back in time to the 40's and 50's


I was the manager of the Terrace Theatre. I grew up in Robbinsdale, My first movie was at the Terrace, and it was always my dream to work there. The Terrace had 1299 seats, not the 1300 that most believe. The Volk brothers did not want an unlucky 13 for the Terrace. Hidden in cupboards were old posters and a phonograph with albums that were played in the lobby.
The copper fountain was a bear to keep polished, but in it's day, it was beautiful. There was a lion head in the middle on the wall, and water came out of it's mouth. Years later, when I was there, it was no longer operational because it leaked, and people didn't put money into lion's heads. There were three bears on the brick wall to the fountain. I wish I could get in there and take them. I looked at them as a child, and as an adult. They had names (captions, I guess) I hope, I wish, and I wonder.
The furniture was art deco, very unique. I met my husband there, the coffee hostess was my matron on honor, and the head usher was the best man. One of the candy girls sang at the wedding. Kids would come and have their pictures taken in the lower lounge before prom, and the TV room wasn't just for kids. Groups of adults, mostly guys would come to watch the Superbowl and eat popcorn, make noise, etc. It was a beautiful place, and a relic. I had to get my third class engineer license to operate the old boiler. The basement was mostly dirt, and there was a three car heated garage. I have a few of the relics from the terrace because the company that split the Terrace, had a manager who threw those things out. I put them right into my car and drove them home, where I care for them and cherish them. Some of it was thrown on my day off, and I am still unhappy about that. Thanks to all of the people who made the Terrace the best place I ever worked. The staff, and the customers. Popcorn is still my favorite food, and I still miss the Terrace. I lost my job there for the second time when yet another company took over. They ran the Terrace into the ground, took out all of the seats and equipment, and closed it up for good. Wish I could run it again, it would make a great dining and movie palace. Eat in the vast lobby, and then on to the show.
On my recordings, I always finished with...See you at the movies!

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