The long-awaited, publicly financed renovation of St. Paul’s Grandview movie theater has begun.
The Grandview, built in 1933 at 1830 Grand Av., closed Monday and is expected to reopen May 17, said Michelle Mann, district manager for Bloomington-based Mann Theatres.
“Finally!” she said Monday afternoon about a project that will replace seats, draperies and carpeting and create a Mann Theatres museum in the cinema’s Round Room.
The number of seats in the lower and upper theaters will remain the same, Mann said. But lower theater seats will be replaced with faux leather high-back rockers. Upper theater seats will still be low-back but more comfortable, she said. The concession stand is not being changed.
Once the work at Grandview is complete, Mann said, it will be time for renovations to begin at Mann’s other St. Paul movie house, the Highland. Mann said that work is expected to begin in August. Theater officials opted to wait until the end of summer in order to have both theaters open to show several expected summer blockbusters, she said.
Work at the Highland theater, which opened in 1939 at 760 Cleveland Av. S., will also replace seats, drapery and carpet. The concession stand there will be remodeled.
The projects have been anticipated ever since the St. Paul City Council in 2014 approved $333,750 in loans to help revamp the classic, albeit aging, neighborhood movie houses. The loan came from the city’s sales-tax revitalization (STAR) program for neighborhood capital-improvement projects and will be forgiven along with interest if the theaters are still open in 2023.
The loan also would be forgiven if either of two additional conditions occur: the theaters receive historic designation, which likely would increase the cost of their upkeep, or a 500-seat first-run theater opens in St. Paul, which could cut into their business.
The loan package was negotiated by Council Member Chris Tolbert to keep the theaters open. The money will help the owners pay for the renovation as well as roofing and plumbing work.
Mann said the two renovation projects are expected to cost between $300,000 and $500,000. In the next few weeks, Mann Theatres expects to launch a public fundraising campaign, through either Kickstarter or GoFundMe, she said.
In 2004, the Manns undertook a $432,000 project to renovate the theaters. The city kicked in a $213,000 forgivable loan and a $75,000 grant from the STAR program.
St. Paul once had more than 100 movie theaters scattered in neighborhoods throughout the city and downtown.