Heights Theater Columbia Heights, MN
The other night I ventured out to see an old classic inside of an older classic. The beautifully maintained one-screen Heights Theater in Columbia Heights, MN was playing the film, The Window (1949) as part of a recent RKO “Film Noir” film festival that is still going on this month.
The Heights Theater is a nostalgic escape. It is 92 years old! It was built in 1926. Originally, it was used for local stage plays and vaudeville acts, besides a simple movie house.
I was last at this theater a handful of years ago for a Thanksgiving showing of Bringing Up Baby (1938). Before that, I attended part of a weekend movie marathon there when I was a teenager.
That movie marathon became part of “The Guinness Book of World Records.” People had the unique opportunity to stay overnight all weekend in the theater (they brought blankets, pillows, toothbrush, etc.). If they stayed the whole weekend and attended every movie that played each day, then they got their names into “The Guinness Book of World Records” (supposedly, but I never fully looked into that).
If my memory serves me correctly, I went to that movie marathon back then during two of the three days of that weekend. I was there specifically to see Laurel & Hardy, and I think even The Three Stooges on the big screen. I also stayed for a couple of feature films, but I cannot remember the titles.
Each time that I have been to the Heights Theater, it looks better than the time before. The owner of the theater is Tom Letness. He also owns the Dairy Queen next door. Both businesses were featured during said movie marathon. Letness has ensured painstaking restorations which have brought this little Historic Theater back to its former glory.
This little piece of history will transport you back to a simpler time. There is a certain elegance and sentiment that wafts throughout the lobby. It is a subtle hint of what to expect when you are actually in the theater, itself.
The theater is an antique and it has been maintained in the same way that you would treat an antique, with care and precision. There are so many details that bring you back to the atmosphere of old, like the vintage twinkling chandeliers on the ceilings overhead, the flickering marquee above the sidewalk outside, the organ player playing with care before the showing of each film, the gorgeous art posters adorning the walls, the old-fashioned red curtains opening and closing across the small screen before and after the show, and the real butter on the reasonably priced popcorn. These are among many other things that I have left out for you to see for yourself.
The preservation of this Historic Theater is impressive. It’s a movie lover’s paradise. It is definitely worth the visit, if you’ve never been before.
There is an upcoming Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival that I will likely attend. The classics often make a very fitting return to this classic theater.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
I got to enjoy a special showing of this film in the theater recently. I love to go back and watch the classics. Especially, the way that they were meant to be seen, on the big screen. Usually you cannot go wrong with Cary Grant, James Stewart, or Katharine Hepburn. The Philadelphia Story gathers the trio together in the same film. Talk about star power. Now, the three are silver screen legends. At the time this movie was released, all of these actors were in their prime. That is easily why 78 years later, the film is still being played in the theater. Can you imagine very many movies that were made in our time that will still be played in theaters 78 years from now? That is, of course, if theaters still exist in 78 years.
The movie is about a wealthy woman who is about to get married for the second time. However, her ex-husband and a reporter show up shortly before the wedding and stir things up.
The film is based on the play by Philip Barry. It is directed by George Cukor and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, Mary Nash, John Halliday, Virginia Weidler, and Henry Daniell.
This movie feels almost more like a play, because it is all about the dialogue and timing of acting. It is the conversations and connections between the characters. The setting does not change much and the audience is more focused on the people instead of the place anyway. This is all understandable of course, because it is based on a play.
The film is filled with grace, wit, humor, life, flawlessness, class, elegance, and charm. Those characteristics all together in one movie in today’s world hardly exist.
Hepburn, Stewart, and Grant play off of each other perfectly. They seem to all equally contribute, which is especially rare in today’s movies for three such big names to carry the film equally. The dialogue is very amusing throughout. In a way, I feel like the film captured a little piece of their heart and soul for your enjoyment. A timeless classic. Like a fine wine, The Philadelphia Story is aged to perfection.
I rate this movie a 10 on a scale of 1-10.
To achieve this 10 rating, you have to understand that the film truly has stood the test of time. For what it is, it is a 10. To truly appreciate this however, you have to have an appreciation for old movies. You have to step outside the box that is the film industry of the present. Take out the action. Take out the special effects. It is heart and soul during the golden age of Hollywood forever captured and preserved for your viewing pleasure. A taste of the past held onto for so many years. We held on to it so tight because it is historic and beautiful.
If you liked this film, than you might also enjoy:
My Favorite Wife (1940)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
It’s A Wonderful Life (1939)
His Girl Friday (1940)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Mr. Lucky (1943)
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
I Was a Male War Bride (1949)
Monkey Business (1952)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Adam’s Rib (1949)
Happy Birthday to Katharine Hepburn! She would have turned 106 years old today. She passed away when she was 96.