March 28, 2008

The Woes of Roseville

The closing of Roseville 4 next week marks the third Roseville (St. Paul, MN) theater closing in the last 15 months. Movie-goers have been pacified with the opening of the sparkling AMC Rosedale 14, but the bells and whistles don't fully comfort me in my disappointment. Though I'm most often found in Minneapolis theaters, the Roseville Three were conveniently located right between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and each had their own unique charm. The new AMC already has my loyal business, but as the last of the old Roseville reels burns up in a shameful mess on the celluloid-stained screen, it's only right to give proper eulogies:


Built in 1970, the gaudy theaters at the Har-Mar Mall were both loved and laughed at for their fanciful interiors, plush carpeting and crystal chandeliers. At different times both the largest and highest-grossing theater in the state, Har-Mar turned into a laughing stock as a new generation of theaters opened with stadium seating and digital sound. Toward the end, the experience of watching a movie there was like watching a TV from the other end of a tunnel. The only theater I've ever been two that's split into two sections of the mall (additional screens and a second box office were built when a mall grocery store closed), Har-Mar was last operated by AMC and closed the week after AMC Rosedale opened in December 2006.

Dates: 1970-2006
First movie I saw there: Don't remember
Last movie I saw there: Sweet Land, December 2006
Other good memories: Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, The Big Kahuna
Legacy: Retro before retro was cool.

Pavilion Place at Crossroads Mall:

Stuck in the middle of what I consistently consider the worst mall in America, the United Artists Pavilion Place theaters never had much of a chance to thrive. The empty retail shops you passed by on the way to the theater always made you wonder if the place would actually exist when you eventually got there. I wasn't around for the excitement when Deep Impact played there, but I can't imagine it drew many people away from Lava Links, the mini-golf/Laser Tag arcade next door. Toward the end, Pavilion actually drew some great independent films, but it just wasn't enough to compete with AMC Rosedale 14 across the street.

Dates: ????-2007
First movie I saw there: Malcolm X, I think
Last movie I saw there: Casino Royale, November 2006
Other good memories: Antwone Fisher, The Prestige
A favorite for teens and dates despite the lack of a food court in the mall - or anything else besides a creepy Army recruiting booth.

Roseville 4:

A first-run theater when it opened in 1974, Roseville 4's legendary charm eventually made it one of the most popular discount theaters in the Twin Cities. All tickets were $2 - and even less on Discount Tuesdays. How could you go wrong? got what you paid for in terms of ambience. The floors were the stickiest in town and so were the teenage employees. Seats were always an adventure - like literally, an adventure. Would you get the seat that drops out to the floor? The one that reclines to 180 degrees? Or my personal favorite: the seats leaning into each other and providing a loveseat for you to share with the stranger next to you who's on the phone while feeding the child on their lap? The audio and video quality were always actually pretty good, though as my brother Josh loved to say, it was the only theater around with "reverse" stadium seating.

Dates: 1974-2007
First movie I saw there: Don't remember
Last movie I saw there: Evan Almighty, July 2007
Other good memories: School of Rock, Napoleon Dynamite
Legacy: Stained seats and obstructed views, virtually for free.

Thanks for the memories, you three. You're gone but not forgotten. Hopefully, your flashy replacement will inspire as many film fans as you did during your glory years.


  1. Weird, the Crossroads Mall and movie theater on Seattle's Eastside was a craphole too...coincidence?

  2. Weird, the movie Crossroads was crappy, too...coincidence?

  3. I saw Fellowship with you at Har Mar... can't believe how far downhill it went so fast.

    Crossroads never had a chance, and I am glad to see it gone. The last movie I saw there was 8 Mile.

    I didn't know that the cheap theater was going out of business... what are they going to do there?

    Great post/eulogy. Being a Roseville resident, I'm glad to see this space being re-purposed, and the new theater is pretty awesome!

  4. AAAAARRGGH!!! Despite the fact that I have not gone there in a while.
    I can't believe this is closing. Just recently I was strongly recommending the place to a friend who moved to St. Paul. Also, I have revised my calling it reverse stadium seating to "bowl" seating instead, due to the center being seemingly the lowest spot. This is likely due to the gradual wearing down of the most-sat-in-area over the years, or some sort of natural sinkhole occurrence; which frankly which not be at all surprising, given the topography of that corner. The parking lot itself can be "literally, an adventure" as much as inside the theater. That whole area is bizarre. It was always part of the charm for me.

    I know for a fact that I saw The Hunt for Red October and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles there (each 2nd time), but the first film I can remember seeing there was Dead Poets Society (1st time). A lot, lot, lot of great memories there. A place of laughter and loving life, both on-screen and off: your description is spot on and hilarious Daniel - thanks!

    Hmmm ... the older I get the more I am bothered by the demise of places that were special to me in my youth ... DING! hello oldest-cliché-ever -- but mostly it's these old movie houses that do it to my heart. I could pretty much care less about the schools and playgrounds and restaurants and other communal, homey places that should be meaningful to me, but just aren't.

    For me it's Roseville 4, and other long-forgotten places like the Drive-in on Hwy 61 (in Maplewood?), the Galtier Plaza cinema in downtown St. Paul, the Skyway theater in downtown Minneapolis, Shelard Parkway in Plymouth, Centennial Lakes 8 in Edina, even good-ol' Maplewood I & II.

    The biggest tragedy for me was probably the loss of the legendary Cooper Theatre in St. Louis Park, before the construction of 394 and other socio-economic factors erased it from existence. A unique and historic place (check out the love at )
    I first saw Bertolucci's The Last Emperor there, on it's 105 foot by 35 foot "Cinerama" screen, and it has never seemed as impressive to me since.

    Har-Mar might be the one I spent the most actual time in, from high school through my early 30's, and the closing of that was rather sad too. It was the first ever THX-approved cinema in Minnesota (screens 1-3 only); and still your quote Daniel of "Retro before retro was cool" fits it to a tee. Not the best movie I have ever seen, but the sheer funny tension of life events that night make Magnolia a favored memory there. The champ favorite though was in 1997 when Har-Mar offered the back-to-back-to-back showing of the "special" editions of the original (and only worthwhile) Star Wars Trilogy. That was a great day indeed, and not just for my quartet of fellow sci-fi nerdlings; it was really a great showcase of the power of movies and the story and different talents that all 3 of those films have, and it solidified forever my vote of The Empire Strikes Back as the best one.

    Anyway, I am sure Roseville, and many of the other cities too, may benefit from the ongoing changes needed over time, but I really really appreciate this post/eulogy [to borrow from sow cow], and the chance to write this insanely long cathartic comment.

  5. Yes, thank you, Daniel, for this tribute to theaters past. I saw Aladdin sitting in one of those 180-degree recliners at Roseville 4 on what may have been my first night out with friends in high school (after choir practice, maybe?) and that remains one of my favorite moviegoing experiences of all time.

  6. I didn't realize Har Mar was a split box office... Eden Prairie used to be like that, until the mall shut down for remodeling (and filming of mall rats ;) )

  7. Yeah, Sauer, hard to believe we saw a blockbuster like LOTR there, isn't it? The screen size was a joke even at that time (2001)? The worst part about the Roseville 4 closing that I couldn't bring myself to mention is that it's just being used to add-on to the already existing Rainbow Foods next door. More food, fewer movies - just what we all need, right? Speaking of food, though, the Little Caesars in the Roseville 4 parking lot was a shameful closing as well.

    I thought about the bowl seating, Josh, but I didn't really know how to describe it. Thankfully, you did. You're right about the other community institutions that close - I don't really care about them as much. The Maplewood theaters deserve a post of their own. I also remember Galtier Plaza from some school trips. I'm pretty sure Matt and I saw Jackie Brown, The Boxer, Scream, and maybe a couple other ones there when we were supposed to be "covering" the YMCA Youth in Government sessions for the conference newspaper. Anyway, I recently looked up Galtier Plaza and it seemed about as dead as Crossroads.

    I remember The Last Emperor but couldn't remember which theater it was until you explained it to me the other day. I also totally forgot about Magnolia at Har-Mar. That's definitely a notable memory. There were a lot that I couldn't remember from all 3, though, especially having been gone for so many years toward their ends.

    I wonder where I saw Aladdin, Vreni? I remember seeing it in Missouri on a summer trip, or so I thought. Maybe I'm making that up. It was probably the first movie that I saw more than once in the theater.

    Dave, sounds like you unfortunately didn't make it to the other side of the city (though why would you have) to enjoy Har-Mar before it was gone. Why was Mallrats filmed in EP, anyway? Why not first-mall-in-history Southdale?

  8. I'm not sure why... the movie was supposed to be set in NJ...

    Wikipedia said there was lower production costs at EP (presumably since it was closed) versus another mall that was actually in Jersey.

  9. Hey-

    Two things. I am going to see, "27 Dresses" the last day of Roseville 4. I was an extra in "mallrats".


  10. Interesting tidbit, Dave. Still don't know why it came down to choosing between those two malls, though...

    Thanks for the visit, Jeremy. I don't think I'm going to make it back to Roseville 4 before it's gone, but I hope they do some kind of celebration or special program or something. Do you have any "insider" insights on the Mallrats production?

  11. I've always maintained this and I think that it's true.

    It's not just the films that make the theatrical experience. I dig gorgeous ambience. I'm one of these people that would go across town to see EXACTLY the same film in a heartstoppingly beauteous movie palace rather than a cineplex. (Actually, I do that ALL the time.)

    But, by the same token, you can have a wonderful time in a rundown hellhole. It's all about the company - and what you do before the movie and *ahem* after.

    This brings me to a subject that I find particularly heartwrenching. Since the 80s (which was the decade preceding the time that I started to attend a LOT of movies), single screen and duplex theatres have started to disappear in droves from my city's landscape.

    For a town this large (one of the biggest cities on the west coast PERIOD), we have relatively few theatres downtown or in the surrounding area. Lots and lots of cement barns/airport hangars (well, that's what they remind me of - and they're about as impersonal, too) in the suburbs with 20+ theatres in enormous complexes.

    But, our memories don't really mean anything to the bean counters. Do they? It's much more important to tear these places down even though some of them are stunningly lovely. If they can't turn a profit or be the money making machines they were at the height of their popularity, they can always be bulldozed to make way for something far more important or edifying. Like an another apartment building or a parking lot.

    We can always use more of those.

    *deeply sarcastic sigh*

  12. Hehe, spoken like a truly jaded moviegoer, Miranda. I have to admit I've been occasionally distracted into complacency by the flashy new theaters, but looking around here, there have been a lot of theaters closing in recent years and nobody's making a peep. Part of me chalks up to them being old dirty buildings, but I'm sure you're right in that it's literally ALL for turning a profit. The "cement barns" are the future and there's not much we can do about it. Is anyone opening up 1-2 screen theaters these days? Doubt it. Hopefully the trend will be bucked at some point and instead of razing a theater like Roseville 4, somebody will step in and give it new life.

  13. Wow, Daniel. LOVE this post. (I'm gonna send you a bit of link luvin', too, if that's all right.)

    I miss the Har-Mar. I saw Ocean's Eleven there with the ex, back when we were newlyweds.

    I can't hate on the AMC, because it's really nice... and like you, I see the bulk of my new releases there. (Can't beat $6 weekday shows!) But I'm so sad to see the demise of our old, great theaters. (Ok, so maybe they weren't all that great--let me have my nostalgia!)

  14. Every town has these theaters, and it makes any closing sad. In one case, the Showcase Theater in Corona, Calif. (where I saw Can't By Me Love when it was first released) has become one of the most venerable places for punk rock shows in Southern California.

    Then there was the Mesa theater in Costa Mesa. They didn't have ushers, they had bouncers. The floor was so steep, at least once a screening, you would hear somebody's "fifth" slide down the floor.

    Sorry to see "your friends" go.

  15. Thanks, Nayana! And yeah...that would be alright...:-D

    I miss Har-Mar, too, maybe more so than the other two. Ocean's Eleven is actually a good example why - it gave off kind of a cheesy glam, sometimes hip vipe. It wasn't bright and cold, it was dim and intimate. Seriously, center aisle with like 3-4 seats on each side like an airplane? Where does that happen anymore? It was a little claustrophobic for some, but I found it cozy. AMC Rosedale has all the creature comforts that we both enjoy (I especially like the lower level stadium seating), but it will take some years for it to develop an identity. Bad start with the ridiculous outdoor ticketing, too.

    Haha, Adam, that's hilarious about the Mesa. Probably not the type of place where you'd find the artsy, foreign films, huh? About the Showcase...well at least it's been reinvented as something and not just turned into an office park.

  16. Didn't we see Rushmore at Har Mar? Talk about a seminal theater going experience, even if I can't remember for sure. Har Mar as a whole is really weird, from the flea markets to the pet store to the equally strange R&B singer Har Mar Superstar (who looks like Ron Jeremy). Now there is one of the biggest Target's ever accross the street. Sigh.

  17. You know I think I saw Rushmore at Har-Mar with Stang on opening day. Come to think of it, that was about 10 years ago this week.

    The Har-Mar Mall needs to be experienced first-hand for a true understanding of its personality. Aside from lacking a food court, arcade, and personality, it also kind of has a distinctive smell to it, doesn't it? Don't get me wrong, it's a nice clean place, and the Barnes and Noble is one of my favorites. But really, it needs some new blood. The Cub Foods in the back seems a little out of place, too.

    And Har-Mar Superstar is now...?

    By the way, that Target is not only of the biggest, but the first ever in the history of the world. Seriously, there's a big display inside. I love Target. Sorry, corporate-haters.

  18. I live 2 blocks away from Har Mar, and still love that place. Marshalls, Cub and Barnes and Noble are Great. I've gotten stumbly drunk at the Old Chicago enough times to be on their "wall of foam" twice, and I am glad they keep the place going.

    The place is so horribly designed, inefficient and just plain stupid that you love to hate it.

    The old theater is now becoming a Staples, and they are putting some other retail where the Firestone building used to be. They are also tearing down the old Ground Round. Crazy to see how much that area (including Target across the street) has changed since I moved here in 2004.

    Also - Seeing that Little Caeser's closed near the Roseville 4 makes me cry a single tear each time I drive by!

  19. The Staples is going in there? How many people need office supplies in so many places - seriously! There are what, like 4 chains of office supply stores? Don't 90% of office supplies get ordered from vendors? I'm pretty sure people got along just fine 20 years ago with Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, etc.

    Not to worry, I think Little Caesar's is on the comeback, or at least it will be with our loyal patronage. There's one at Univ. Ave. & Snelling and another new one at White Bear Ave. & Larpenteur. Not like I've been looking for them or anything...

    Seriously, I've been to each once.

  20. They closed the Roseville 4? Oh my god, I leave the state and everything goes to hell.

    Hats off to Stoned Tuesdays... the new Willy Wonka movie was unbelievable at the 4, sitting in the back row with my feet stuck to the floor.

  21. Also, the best part about Har Mar was their bathrooms. It was an experience - each stall was a different color and had a sink inside. Loved it.

    My favorite part about the new AMC was the GENIUS idea to put an outdoor ticket booth, until someone remembered that it's Minnesota. It only took one winter for them to build a big glass box and enclose it with the rest of the theater.

  22. Thanks for the visit, Lindsey. Too bad you couldn't get one last Roseville 4 visit in. Yes, the Har-Mar bathrooms (at least the men's) were pretty memorable as well, and the AMC ticketing? Idiotic. The new addition isn't much of an improvement since it's not heated very well. Who knows what they were thinking.

  23. I grew up a few blocks from both Har Mar and Roseville 4 theaters. I remember seeing E.T., Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Arc, Robocop... some great flicks. There was a drug store next to Har Mar theaters at the time (where Barnes and Noble is), where I would load up on candy before the show so I wouldn't have to pay theater prices.

    I live in Los Angeles now surrounded by some of the most high tech modern, stadium seating, THX surround theaters in the world. But NOTHING will ever give me the chills like sitting in one of those old Roseville theaters watching the liquid lava pre-show on screen when suddenly the lights dim and the projector fires up. Great memories.

  24. Thanks for stopping by, Ian. You really must have patronized the Har-Mar during its height of popularity with those early 80's blockbusters. Ironically, I saw the last Indiana Jones (last year's) at the new AMC Rosedale.

    I bet there are a lot of people in your position out there in L.A. who have grand memories of their hometown theaters. Strange that nobody's come up with a documentary (or TV show) yet, interviewing stars about their favorite theater memories. For that matter there just aren't that many movies about theaters, or at least the Cinema Paradiso-nostalgia of them.

    Anyway, if you get back to Roseville for a visit steer clear of Har-Mar so as to avoid heartbreak. That complex is suffering and it's hard to watch.


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