March 1, 2013
Remembering the Cooper Theater
The Cooper Theater
If you’re a long-time Twin Citian, you likely remember the retro-wonderful Cooper Theater that used to occupy a spot along the Highway 394 corridor in St. Louis Park. It was one of only 3 “Cinerama” theaters in the country. And it also held a place in The Arc’s history in Minnesota.
“Cinerama” used three film projectors synchronized to make a panoramic image. The Cooper Theater opened in 1962, with a recognizable circular architecture that fit right into the groovy 1960’s. According to the St. Louis Park Historical Society, “The $1 million facility was built on 32 acres. It had tiered, plush seating for 800 people. The theater eschewed popcorn for Swiss chocolate and was meticulously maintained – reportedly the lobby was repainted monthly. It had a 135 foot wide screen.”
The TPT documentary “Lost Twin Cities III”, narrated by friend of The Arc Don Shelby, highlighted the Cooper Theater’s unusual connection to The Arc. In 1970, the film Airport made its debut at The Cooper Theater, as a fundraiser for what was at the time called the “Minnesota Association for Retarded Children” (and later evolved into The Arc Greater Twin Cities). The event was attended by Hubert Humphrey, who had a personal connection with The Arc, actress Jackie Bisset, and other local celebrities. The Historical Society noted that some patrons arrived in small planes and landed on the theater grounds!
The Twin Cities said goodbye to the Cooper and all its retro glory when it was demolished in 1992. But its place in history and its vintage splendor live on, as we imagine what must have been a very glamorous night in 1970 when Airport debuted, and the movers and shakers came together at an event that raised $30,000 for The Arc.