The historic Edina Cinema anticipates reopening next spring after shuttering operations during the pandemic.
Owner Suzanne Haugland said when moviegoers line up for fresh popcorn and fill new recliner seats it will have been two years since the cinema went dark. Landmark Theatres, which had operated the theater since 2003, returned keys in March and Haugland announced the theater on 50th and France wouldn't reopen unless a new operator took over the lease.
Bloomington-based Mann Theatres, which operates seven other theaters in the state, was contacted by the city as a prospective operator, co-owner Michelle Mann said. Her father, Steve Mann, actually owned Edina Cinema back in the '80s. Now the Mann family will have a hand in operations again as it looks to sign a five-year lease with Haugland just five months after negotiations began.
"People want to come to the movies, especially after COVID," Michelle Mann said. "You can stream things at your house, of course, but there's nothing like the movie theater experience. And we're seeing the recovery here in the last six months, and it's so exciting to see how supportive and excited people are."
A makeover of about $1.5 million will update the cinema, built in 1934 and last renovated in the '80s, and the city is contributing a $300,000 forgivable loan through its Housing and Redevelopment Authority. The authority met last week to approve the loan, so long as the cinema remains operating in good standing for six or more years after the initial reopen date. The City Council approved a $200,000 grant through the American Rescue Plan Act in early September.
Mayor Jim Hovland said the city's contribution to the restoration of the theater shows how important it is to the community that wants to see it reopen and succeed.
"When we faced the prospect of the theater closing, I was getting e-mails and calls from people all over the Twin Cities who really cared about coming to Edina and having dinner and going to the theater," he said. "It has been such a vital part of our community, but it was really interesting to see how much it meant to other people as well."
Hovland said the Edina Cinema not only holds historic importance in the community, but it's also an element of success for the 50th and France business corridor, and the theater reopening will provide an "economic boost" for the area.
"It just brings more vitality to 50th and France, and that's a wonderful thing," he said.
Mann Theatres shuttered operations at its Hopkins location in November 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions. The closed Mann Hopkins Cinema 6 property was destined for redevelopment and was to be the site of a new apartment complex.
Edina residents feared that could be the fate of its cinema, too.
Kersten Elverum, Hopkins director of planning and economic development, said the apartment concept was tossed out by owner Beard Group and the cinema remains vacant.
But Mann Theatres thinks Edina will be another renovation success story like in St. Paul, where it renovated two art deco-influenced theaters — Grandview and Highland, both built in the '30s — four years ago.
"We did not come in and try to make something modern; we restored it back to its original feel and style," she said.
Like with those projects, Mann said Edina will be upgraded but retain its historic features. A major renovation includes replacing 1,200 theater chairs with about 550 loungers. Mann said that accounts for a 60% decrease in seating capacity to accommodate larger seats that recline.
Another big undertaking is in the mezzanine, on the second floor of the four-story theater. Haugland envisioned a bar that could be rented out for events. Mann's brother and co-owner, Michael Mann, had the idea to transform the space with inspiration from the 1980 film "The Shining" by replicating the Gold Room bar aesthetic and even copying the bar's red restroom.
"We're going to meet with our architects and our contractors and try to execute that plan and make it something so special and unique in the Twin Cities," Michelle Mann said.
The concession stands, lobby, four auditoriums, vestibule, sound system and screens all will be transformed, she said.
But three aspects of the Edina Cinema will be untouched: the colorful art deco carpet, marquee and theater sign. Mann said they will be restored and repaired, but said "those three things will be kept exactly the way that they are."
Haugland said as soon as the lease is finalized and signed, renovations will be underway. She said the project wouldn't be possible without community support and financial backing from the city.
"There was no way this was getting done without help from the city," she said. "I couldn't be more thrilled. Everybody is absolutely thrilled it's coming back."