The Edina Theatre is an Art Deco style motion picture theater located at 3911 W. 50th Street. Built in 1934, the original design by Liebenberg and Kaplan featured a brick-faced, ziggurat-stepped façade with a tower, metal canopy and lighted sign.
Since it opened on August 31, 1934, the theatre has undergone extensive alterations, including replacement of the original canopy and marquee and modifications to the entrance, lobby, lounge, box office and retail shop spaces. All but 30 feet of the auditorium was reconstructed in 1984. Nevertheless, the building's historic plan and form remain largely intact.
Although it is one of the last remaining prewar movie houses in the Twin Cities, the Edina Theatre building has lost much of its historic significance as a result of alterations, which have removed or obscured many of its Art Deco details.
Description & Heritage Landmark Designation
The Edina Theatre sign that exists today is a reconstruction of the original 1934 sign that was destroyed by a tornado in 1981. The sign is made of steel and covered with sheet metal. "Edina" is spelled out with fluorescent tubing, surrounded by flashing incandescent light bulbs that are illuminated in sequence to simulate movement. (This type of animated signage was first seen in 1923 in New York City's Times Square, and was a common movie house design element until World War II.) In combination with the bright fluorescent and blinking lights on the marquee and canopy, the purpose of the lighted sign was to capture the attention of passing motorists. More than seventy years after it was first illuminated, the sign continues to produce a dramatic transformation of the nighttime streetscape along 50th Street. An important example of public art in its own right, the sign defines the historic character of the 50th and France commercial district, where it evokes a strong sense of community identity as well as nostalgia.
In 2002, the Edina Heritage Preservation Board found that the reconstructed theater sign was the property's most historically significant architectural feature and determined it alone was eligible for Edina Heritage Landmark designation as an historic object. The City's preservation code allows for the designation of historic objects as landmarks in cases where the historic resource is a significant example of public art related to a specific location. In this case, although the physical relationship between the sign and the theater building is important in defining its historic identity, it is understood that the heritage value of the sign is not necessarily dependent upon preservation of the theater façade. The plan of treatment supporting the landmark designation provides for guidance in restoration and recognizes that if the sign must give way to new development, it may be relocated to a new site with compatible surroundings where it can be preserved and rehabilitated.
Edina Heritage Award Recipient - 2004
The 2004 Edina Heritage Award was presented to the owner of the Edina Theatre in recognition of the careful reconstruction of the historic sign after being destroyed by a tornado in 1981. The attention to detail, referring to the original 1934 plans during reconstruction resulted in a sign that continues to prominently identify downtown Edina.
(History Courtesy of the City of Edina)