Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Luverne: “Go digital or go dark” August 29, 2013

The entry to the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Luverne, Minnesota.

The entry to the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Luverne, Minnesota.

THE DOORS TO THE OLD THEATRE were locked, much to my dismay, on a recent Saturday visit to Luverne in extreme southwestern Minnesota.

Charming exterior art.

Charming exterior art.

If only I could have gotten inside to view the original painted wall panels, stage curtains, pipe organ, and artistic wall and ceiling décor inside the 1915 Palace Theatre.

I am a fan of old theatres and of old buildings in general. But you know that if you’ve followed Minnesota Prairie Roots.

That's ReBorn, in the right corner of the city-owned theatre building at 102 E. Main Street.

The city-owned Palace Theatre at 102 E. Main Street, operated by the nonprofit Blue Mound Area Theatre.

That Luverne appreciates the value of its historic theatre enough to preserve the building, which hosts a variety of cultural and other events, pleases me. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Theatre supporters are currently working to continue one aspect of the building’s use, that of showing movies. Through the “Go Digital or Go Dark” campaign, efforts are underway to raise $75,000 for the purchase of a digital projector. At the end of 2013, film companies will no longer produce 35mm film, necessitating the switch.

Now I’m not a big movie watcher, having last viewed an in-theatre movie several years ago. But I like the option of a local theatre, which my community of 23,000 no longer has. Sad. Truly sad.

I expect the good folks of Luverne would miss their movies, too, should funding not come through for the digital projector.

A notable sign draws the eye to the Palace.

A notable sign draws the eye to the Palace.

A special fundraising event, “A Night at the Palace,” slated for Saturday, September 7, will raise monies specifically for that projector. Click here to learn more.

There’s just one more bit of information you should know about the Palace Theatre. Six years ago, on September 6, the Palace Theatre hosted the world premiere of The War, a Ken Burns documentary on World War II. Luverne is one of four communities featured in the film.

Downtown Luverne, Minnesota.

Downtown Luverne, Minnesota.

Of all the venues which could have been selected for the debut showing, the Palace Theatre was chosen. That, my friends, says a lot for the community of Luverne and the historic theatre.

FYI: To learn about another Luverne theatre in need of funding for a digital projector, click here and read about the Verne Drive-in.

If you wish to donate monies (via PayPal) toward purchasing a digital projector for the Palace Theatre, click here.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


19 Responses to “In Luverne: “Go digital or go dark””

  1. I hope they can reopen….a theater in a small town is such a treasure for the citizens. Always thought it a shame Waseca does not have one.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Stacey, the theatre is not actually closed as they are still showing movies via the 35mm film projector system. Plus, live theatre and other events are held here.

      Once the mega movie theater complex opened in Lakeville and then the new theater in Owatonna, Faribault’s theater seemed doomed.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    Looks like a fabulous theater and I hope the funding comes through. I love to go to movies and Chris and I watch movies at home all the time on Netflix or Hulu or on ITunes. It is a great form of entertainment for us and a fun date. There are so many fabulous movies out there and the effects are so mind blowing —it amazes me what they can do.

  3. hotlyspiced Says:

    It’s very sad when these beautiful buildings are no longer viable. We have so many like that in rural areas of Australia. We saw a beautiful art deco theatre on our most recent holiday but the family (those who had inherited it and let it run into the ground) had closed it down and put it up for sale. It could easily be turned into a very viable concern but the benefactors had no vision. It’s so sad to see these beautiful and historical buildings pulled down – they are never replaced! xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      That’s exactly how I feel about historic buildings. They can never be replaced.

      The Palace Theatre, thankfully, also offers live theatre and other events in addition to movies. It seems, for now, to be viable.

  4. Allan Says:

    The theater is a rare gem, in all it’s ART DECO style. This rarity should be on the Historical preservation list so nothing ever can be altered or torn down! Art Deco is my favoite style, and is becoming so rare. The Queen Mary which is dry docked in Long Beach, CA, is a true Art Deco style too. Any movie with Jean Harlow will be filled with homes, apartments, and restaurants all in Art Deco Luxury. Thanks for sharing this Gem of a theater, and I hope the owners know what a rarity they own!!! With all the “Dumbing of America” movies that are now digital, why don’t they run older family type movies instead? !! Oh, I am wrong, people love the Dumbing of America, blood, guts, gore and vile language. My wish for this theater, is play the oldies, as there are a lot of us baby boomers that would love it.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Allan, nice to hear from you. It’s been awhile. I, too, love the Art Deco style.

      Just to reiterate, the Palace Theatre is owned by the City of Luverne. It is operated by the nonprofit Blue Mound Area Theatre.

      The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1978. You can learn more about the history of the building and donate at this link: http://www.palacetheatre.us/DigitalProjector.xhtml

      The Green Earth Players Perform here and the Palace offers free family movie nights at least once a month.

      • Allan Says:

        Great! Another place to visit, right here in “our Minnesota”. I am very familiar with the National Register of Historic Buildings, as our entire block is on it. Our neighborhood boasts several Greek Revival homes, but ours is an English Country Cottage, with Art Deco interior. Built in 1931, it is all original. Not a big house, but comfortable. It is so important to preserve the old for the future. America is a knock em down Nation, and history means so little to some. When I think of all the historical buildings that were destroyed over the years, to be replaced with cheap “paper clips, and paste houses, and buildings. I am for both, the new and the old, and there is plenty of room for both. God Bless America, and God Bless our Military People who keep us safe!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Your house sounds charming, absolutely charming.

        Luverne is, through a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants Program grant, evaluating its commercial district for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Learn more here:


  5. Love small towns, the charm and the community:) Great Captures – thanks for sharing! Happy Thursday

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      And I especially like small towns that appreciate their historic buildings, which lend charm and uniqueness to a community.

  6. The theater in my small hometown of Eastsound, WA, is also raising funds for the exact same reason. It’s a one-screen theater, and that’s a heck of a lot of money to raise for such a small venue. I hope they’ll make it – it’s one “normal” thing that kids there have in an island of many abnormals!

  7. Jackie Says:

    I love those old theaters, I think Kasson still has theirs, haven’t been there in awhile. Rick and I are HUGE movie go’ers. We probably see a movie in the theater twice a month. When we were dating as teenagers we frequented the “Chateau” theater in downtown Rochester. It was closed for quite while, but they have since restored the theater and made it into a Barnes & Noble…. It’s beautiful inside. Here is a picture of it in this recent blog of mine (top photo) if you want to take a peek. http://jackie000.blogspot.com/2013/08/thursdays.html

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Just clicked on your link to the repurposed theater in Rochester. Could you take us on a field trip there some day via a posting? Would love to see the interior.

      • Jackie Says:

        i could do that Audrey, someday I would love to show you around Rochester for “real”…. lots of amazing thing to see, I can hear your camera clicking now…..

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Yup. Click, click, click…

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