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.