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Nostalgia Filled Parkway Theater Brings Back the Charm

Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

The Listing – The Parkway Theater

  • Location
    • 4814 Chicago Avenue
    • Minneapolis, MN 55417
  • Website
  • History
    • Built in 1931, re-imagined in September 2018
  • Size
    • 5,000 square feet, seating for 360
  • Seating
    • Wide theater seating and aisles for easy access
  • Food
    • Concessions stand offers up popcorn, local snacks, and special cocktails designed with Tattersall Distillery.
  • Parking
    • Street parking in the area
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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

The Blueprint

In front of the Parkway Theater sits the first projector used in the venue. Now a bit rusted, covered in snow, and bolted to the sidewalk, it’s a reminder of the long history that came before this new reincarnation. Built in 1931, The Parkway started as a vaudeville theater. Large metal slates on the sides of the screen are a remnant of the “swamp pool” that sat behind the screen. This large basin of water included fans that blew air over the pool, helping to cool down the space during the summers. Over the years it grew more focused on movies and rare unique performances. The wear and tear finally built up and it closed in 2017.

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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

The new re-imagining of the space, which opened September 2018, has been a transformation on almost all fronts. The smaller lobby added a new bar and moved the concession stand to the other side. There’s a new gold chandelier overhead, which ties into the original art deco facade. There’s a side arcade room filled with classic games that include Centipede, Tempest, and Ms. Pac-Man. A streak of an 80’s vibe also runs through the venue. Pink cushioned seats line the back of the lobby. The bright red velvety seats are original, just reupholstered. The aisles are wider than typical theaters for the pure intention giving attendees the ability to move and dance. It’s a small detail that everyone can appreciate. Along with upgrading the air conditioning, heating, and electrical work, the bathrooms are currently being redone. As Ryan Anderson, 10 year employee of the Parkway shares “It’s incredible what’s been done to this space.”

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Photos by – Kathleen Ambre

The core identity of the theater is their 35mm film nights. Opening night saw a sold out crowd for Jaws. Their calendar is consistently filled with films from our youth, like Back To The Future, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Predator. Classic films are shown with two mighty machines anchored in the projector booth. The appeal of 35mm film is much like vinyl records to CD’s. There is more warmth, grit, scratches, and intermittent audio pops that you experience. Its the history of the medium that makes 35mm film a niche market that enthusiasts love. It brings you back to watching movies as a kid, except this time Parkway provides limited special Tattersall cocktails for your adult indulgence. The nostalgia factor fits perfectly into these evenings.

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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

The first months saw Halloween, Alaska, Jeremy Messersmith, and Dave Huckfelt of The Pines grace The Parkway stage. This past weekend, Lazerbeak celebrated the release of his album. The future of the theater is also very bright. Plans to build in ladder bars on the sides of the theater would clean up the stage area. They are working on a podcast contract to bring a monthly social event into the space. They want to record and archive shows.

When asked about a Green Room, smiles broke out. Tucked behind the theater sits an old, silver, Airstream camper. A tin nest designated for artists to prepare and hang out. This uncanny space only adds to the essence of The Parkway Theater. The charm lingers throughout, and the past is present everywhere you look.

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Ryan Anderson and Loren Wiklander, photo by – Kathleen Ambre

Loren Wiklander, Concert Production Coordinator

Loren’s history in live sound started early with his investment from Southern Thunder Sound. Growing up he flipped pages for his mom in orchestra pits, learning how to read music. Years later as a drummer, he saw a large sound system and intuitively made a purchase. Owning a large system, he received more and more calls for live sound gigs.

His transition into the industry took off. Running audio for Ipso Facto, The Phones, The Suburbs, and The Suicide Commandos took Loren all over the cities. It was when he helped take over Southern Thunder Sound that some of the fun dried up. The accounting duties and numbers game became more important. After spending time driving tour buses and on the road, it finally caught up with his family. His kids would sarcastically ask, “Dad? Right?” So he shifted focus and transitioned into an audio visual role at the Minneapolis Convention Center, keeping him close to home.

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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

His expertise would draw the interest of the new owners. Like any passion, you can’t hold it down and Loren was immediately drawn into the project of revitalizing the Parkway. His digital Behringer X32 mixer runs the sound system, while his monitor mixes are completely separate. This allows the main mixing engineer to not worry about monitor mixes, while another person can setup those on an external iPad. His mains are stacked JBL’s, with plenty of thrust. Loren explained the choice on not building in a line array system. Line arrays take up a ton of space and, visually, can be a burden. The intention was keeping it a community theater and not interfering with that vibe.

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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

Loren shared his excitement about mixing a full performance of Sgt Pepper’s (March 15th), a landmark album for The Beatles. As a connoisseur of that album, he’s attune to the panning tricks, sound nuances, and sonic signatures of the work. Having a surround sound system at your disposal also doesn’t hurt on recreating the album. This rare performance will be another highlight in the Parkway Theater’s already mounting accomplishments.

Insider Tips

Before the show check out Rock Paper Scissors Goods next door. You can buy upcoming tickets for the Parkway, or shop their wonderful selection of vinyl records. In my brief visit, I spotted at least 8 albums that I’ve been searching for. Once inside The Parkway, take advantage of their superb bar. Stocked with Tattersall craft spirits, they often make a special cocktail based on the event. Finally, put away your phone while waiting for the show to begin. Just around the corner is their video arcade. A few quarters will provide some nostalgic entertainment.

The Guest Room

Chris Koza, Composer and Performer

I chose the Parkway for my new album release in part because of its historic charm and decor. I also like the idea of a really cool music venue in the heart of an unassuming neighborhood where one might not expect to find such an oasis. Years back, in the era of Pepitos, I had a band and we’d practice just down the street from the 50th and Chicago neighborhood. That area has transformed over the past decade and is home to so many great long-time and newer businesses. I can get t-shirts from Afternoon Printing and a warm loaf of bread from Turtle Bread. I love the energy that surrounds a venue that produces live events, and that the Parkway does film, music, live events – you-name-it – is a major boon to the community.

Chris Koza Promo
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Photo by Mike Madison

The Parkway has just the right audience capacity for where I’m at right now, and the stage can accommodate bands of all sizes and even a few special guests. My new album is called Sleepwalkers and the concept behind it is how our realities are constructed from the blurring collage of dreams, memories, truths, fictions, desires, and predictions. To be able to showcase this new music at a venue that has seen it all over the years, seems like a fitting match.

Chris Koza Sleepwalkers Part 1
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Sleepwalkers Part 1

The Sleepwalkers release show party is April 26th and will feature a variety-show-style opening set from improv master Joy Dolo and her troupe, a solo performance from experimental pop artist Diane Miller and the infectious energy and tight harmonies from folk-pop duo Twins of Franklin. I’ll have my full band and we’ll perform most of the new album as well as some of my own personal favorites from past albums. It’s gonna be a blast! The album is out April 5th on CD and streaming. I’ll have vinyl records at the release show then at Electric Fetus and Mill City Music and all the local places thereafter.

Upcoming Events

Full schedule can be found here. A few immediate highlights include:

5/24 – The Parkway Pick-off // Bluegrass Battle of the Bands – Eight of the area’s best bluegrass bands will compete — and the top three bands will take home some incredible prizes including a full-day’s worth of recording time, a professionally produced music video, and buckets of cash!

5/31 – An Evening with The Rembrandts, special guest Little Man – If you’ve seen The Rembrandts you know they guarantee a great live performance. Their fan-base spreads to over a dozen Countries around the world and their pop smashes have crossed over into multiple radio formats winning dozens of awards. In addition to performing the mega hits “That’s Just The Way It Is Baby,” “Johnny Have You Seen Her,” they’ll perform of one of the most successful singles and TV theme songs in history, “I’ll Be There For You.”

6/7- The Brilliance Presents: World Keeps Spinning– The Brilliance creates art that inspires empathy. Their acoustic-electronic, symphonic-pop songs invite you to step outside yourself; to see the world through the eyes of the other, the stranger, those you may consider your enemy.

6/11- Tuesdays with Lazerbeak – Live Podcast Recording – Doomtree Records and The Parkway Theater present the first edition of a live quarterly recording of the popular Tuesdays with Lazerbeak podcast, featuring interviews with musicians and mental health experts, along with unique and intimate performances.

Music venues are the lifeblood of our community. By providing musicians the opportunity to showcase, collaborate, and experiment with their craft, venues are essential in their development. This series will continue to promote and support our local venues across Minnesota. Please see the previous articles below and go support local music. Our hope is these articles show the importance of supporting venues and places where creativity can thrive.

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