The Heights Theatre is located in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, a Northeast Minneapolis suburb. The theatre was originally constructed in 1926 by Gluek Brewery heir Arthur Gluek as a prohibition real estate venture.
Built in the Beaux Arts style of the last century, the Heights Theatre building was a simple neighborhood movie house showcasing local talent in stage plays and “High Class Amateur Vaudeville Acts.” The Heights has survived at least three fires, one bombing and “The Big Blow of 1949” when a Fridley tornado twisted the tower sign.
Tom Letness and Dave Holmgren bought the Heights Theatre in November of 1998. At first sight the theater looked completely different: it was a turquoise box. The original blueprints from the University of Minnesota’s archives revealed that the ornamental plaster of polychromed woodwork and the front windows had been walled-up during World War II. To top it all off the previous owners had slathered the building with turquoise paint.
Today the theater has been restored to its original glory. A scarlet motorized Grande drape covers the proscenium stage and gilded grills conceal the organ’s pipework. Antique chandeliers are suspended from the ceiling restored with 2600 Egyptian lead crystals. Hand-painted reproduction Edison Mazda bulbs in four colors on separate circuits allow a multitude of effects from 152 lights above four hundred seats. An orchestra pit was discovered under the floor where the mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ now rises for Friday and Saturday night concerts.
The Heights has a grand piano in the lobby and an upright piano in the auditorium connected to the organ. The 1926 Williams Brothers steam boiler was replaced with two new high-efficiency hot water boilers and new electrical service as well as plumbing upgrades has been completed over the years. The entire lobby and auditorium were recarpeted, and a sparkling new tower sign crowns the marquee.
Tom Letness, who became sole owner of The Heights in 2003, specializes in upscale first run films, classic film series and events.