History

History

THE VARSITY THEATER: MORE FUN THAN A CIRCUS!

We’ve hosted live theater, dance concerts, full blown musicals, film screenings, radio broadcasts, political campaigns, product roll-outs, and trade shows that dazzle ‘em.  We have some of the best and newest gear of any mid-sized theater in the Twin Cities, and to top it all, a beautifully preserved classic Deco-era exterior, restored vintage Hollywood marquee, and a million-dollar interior makeover that must be  experienced to be believed.

You may have heard of us, or even been here for a show. The biggest thing you need to know about the Varsity is that it can be anything to you want it to be. The quality vibe and comfort level at the Varsity is second to none. Imagine the Varsity for your next event.

Our other specialty is hosting the Midwest’s most unique and beautiful weddings and company celebration dinners.  If you want to blow away your guests with refined and romantic imagination, or rock ‘em with something completely different and amazing, call us!  We will definitely rock it.

 

OUR STORY

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The Varsity Theater originally began its life as The University Theater on December 6, 1915. It was one of the last vaudeville houses in the city of Minneapolis and hosted everything from minstrel shows, to comedians, to screenings of early silent films.

Between 1938 and 1939, the theater was remodeled in the Art Deco style by acclaimed Minneapolis architects Jack Liebenberg & Seeman Kaplan, the Johnny Appleseeds of movie houses in the Midwest (thanks to their work on the Uptown, Granada/Suburban World, Oak Street, and Ritz Theaters). Rechristened The Varsity, the theater re-opened on April 21, 1939 and served as a movie house to the Dinkytown neighborhood for the next fifty yeas until it closed in 1988.

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In 1990, the theater re-opened as an underground club, featuring everything from wrestling nights to legendary concerts by Green Day, 2 Live Crew, and more. After closing in 1991, the theater re-opened as a photography and design studio until 2004.

In 2005, the current incarnation of The Varsity Theater opened its doors as a vaudeville house for the 21st Century, owned and operated by Jason McLean; owner of the Loring Pasta Bar (Minneapolis, MN) and Loring Café & Bar (Oakland, CA), and designer and originator of Annie’s Kitty Cat Klub. McLean’s original Loring Café/Bar, and the Loring Playhouse were a revitalizing force in the formerly listless Loring neighborhood in downtown Minneapolis. His current arts-oriented entertainment and dining destinations have been instrumental in energizing the emerging Dinkytown arts and entertainment district.

While it has presented its share of live theatre, film screenings, and dance performances, The Varsity has garnered an internationally-renown reputation for being one of the premiere music venues in the country; hosting such diverse and defining artists as Mumford and Sons, Feist, Brandi Carlile, Saul Williams, Phoenix, Mayer Hawthorne, Cloud Cult, Janelle Monaé, Shellac, The XX, Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard, Sia, Ra Ra Riot, Thurston Moore, Regina Spektor, The Hood Internet, Bob Mould, The Civil Wars, Ghostface Killah, Jamie Lidell, Low, and the late Amy Winehouse to name just a few. To see who is coming to The Varsity, head over to our Show Calendar.

Additionally, The Varsity (in partnership with Loring Pasta Bar) has become one of the most sought-after private event venues in the region. Hosting everything from dazzling weddings and private to glamorous galas and thrilling corporate events and everything in between. To learn more about having a one of a kind event in a one of a kind space, head over to our Events page.