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What was Suburban in 1939? Uptown

  • Blog Post by: James Lileks
  • September 17, 2009 - 1:26 PM

 I mentioned Uptown earlier this week, because - well, I forgot why. Don't really need a reason; it's one of Minneapolis' most interesting neighborhoods. Kicked myself a day later for calling the old grocery store by the wrong name - it was Morris AND Christie's. Couldn't recall the name at the time, but I can still recall the old worn linoleum floor that must have been hell to mop, because decades of patrons had worn small valleys in the aisles. Anyway: while scrolling through the fiche at lunchtime ("What looks good on the menu today?" "Try the fiche.") (Sorry. Very, very sorry) I found this ad:

 

 

November 16, 1939. So the theater will be 70 this year. Note the word on the marquee: "FIRST SUBURBAN SHOWING." You usually don't think of Lake & 30th as being Suburban; it's the heart of the lower half of the city. And it's particularly odd that something self-identifed as Suburban should call itself the Uptown. But the term apparently was used to describe anything not in the immediate core; the proud boast that the theater was the ONLY one to show the big pictures indicates that downtown got all the first-runs first, after which they seeped into the neighborhood theaters. 

It also explains the name that's mystified many for decades: why the theater down the block is called the Suburban World. It was originally a faux-historical theater named the Grenada  (designed by the same team that did the ultra-modern Uptown, by the way, as well as the super-ultra-modern Hasty Tasty restaurant, which is now Pier One), but the name was changed in 1954. By then "suburb" was no doubt regarded as the term for the Richfields and Fridleys, but enough of the old connotation remained. They couldn't call it the World, because there was already one downtown. 

Final note: the theater was described as "Progressive," thanks to its sleek moderne design - a piece of the World's Fair come to Uptown. New "modern" buildings have been built in the area since, but not one still looks as timeless - and perpetually stylish  - as the Uptown theater. 

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