The Pantages, which now seats 1014, opened in 1916 as a vaudeville house and part of Greek immigrant and impresario Alexander Pantages’ renowned consortia of theatres. It was designed by the Minneapolis firm of Kees and Colburn in an Art Moderne/Beaux Arts style. The Pantages’ first show was a vaudeville lineup that included singers, comedians and a banjo player. In 1922, the Pantages was remodeled by renowned theatre architect Marcus Priteca/RKO and a new stained glass dome was added, which remains among the Pantages’ most lovely features. In 1945, Edmond Ruben purchased the Pantages and renovated it by adding bird’s-eye maple. The grand reopening was on April 14, 1946 with a screening of Gilda. In 1961, Ruben sold the Pantages to Ted Mann, who owned five other downtown Minneapolis theatres including the Orpheum Theatre. Mann renovated the Pantages yet again, and reopened it as a top-notch movie house the Mann Theatre on March 15, 1961 with the movie Spartacus. That same year, United Artists previewed West Side Story at the Mann; and the film went on to win ten Academy Awards. In 1965 director Robert Wise, recalling his success with West Side Story, decided to preview his new movie, The Sound of Music, at the Mann. The showing at the Pantages was a terrific success and went on to become the longest running film in Twin Cities history – just under two years. The theatre operated sporadically from 1965 through 1984, continuing to show movies including the Mann’s last Twin Cities premiere of Annie in 1982.
In 1984, the Mann Theatre closed and remained shuttered until 1996, when current Hennepin Theatre Trust President/CEO Tom Hoch and former Historic Theatre Group President Fred Krohn initiated a five-year effort to save and restore the Pantages Theatre. During the renovation, architectural drawings were found and used to restore much of the theatre’s decorative plasterwork and character. The stained-glass “monitor,” a false skylight in the center of the auditorium’s ceiling, was revealed after layers of paint were removed. In cooperation with the City of Minneapolis, on November 7, 2002 the completely renovated Pantages re-opened at a cost of $9.5 million. Since then, the intimate Pantages has presented music, theatre and dance artists including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Vince Gill, Feist, Todd Rundgren, The Blenders and collaborative productions with Twin Cities’ organizations including the Jungle Theater, the History Theatre, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Cantus and Theater Latté Da. Hennepin Theatre Trust is now the owner and operator of this magnificent structure.