Originally the Heights Theater had a small Robert Morton pipe organ installed in 1927, but this organ was removed in 1936 when the theater was remodeled. The original organ chamber is to the left of the screen and will eventually house the Main chamber of the current organ.
The current organ began its life in 1929 as the WCCO studio organ, back in the days when WCCO had studios located in the old Nicollet hotel at Washington and Hennepin Ave in downtown Minneapolis. It was then a 3 manual instrument with 12 ranks of pipes. Then in the 1960's it was sold to a private collector and eventually purchased by the Land O Lakes Theatre Organ Society in 1998. Soon after, a deal was struck with the management of the Heights Theater to install the organ, thus making the Heights the first movie theater to have a functioning pipe organ since the Downtown Minneapolis Radio City Theater closed its doors in 1958.
The organ currently has 16 sets of pipes (known as ranks) and also boasts a glockspiel, xylophone, chimes, piano, and marimba, as well as an assortment of rhythm percussions and original theater pipe organ sound effects such as train whistle, bell, birds, and so forth. The section which currently plays is housed in the former dressing room on the right side of the auditorium. The organ's voices include Tuba, Trumpet, Post horn (the loudest stop) strings clarinet, and a variety of other organ voices to fill out the ensemble.
Organists play a short program Friday and Saturday nights before the 7:10 shows, and also for special movie events and silent movies.
The Heights Theatre is one of the best-equipped venues for film and Digital presentation in the Twin Cities. In 2012 we did a complete D cinema installation using a Dolby Digital cinema package combined with a brand new BARCO 2K digital projector. Unlike most theaters though, we have kept our full 35mm-70mm Norelco AAII legacy film projectors in place and operational. All film prints are projected reel to reel and not from an automated platter system. The Heights also has one of the best cinema sound systems supporting full Dolby Digital surround sound, DTS Digital as well as excellent mono and stereo optical and magnetic systems.
SCREEN SIZES (Aspect ratio followed by width X height). 70MM: 22 X 11, Cinemascope: 23 X 11, 1.85: 22 X 13, 1.66: 18 X 13, 1.37: 16 X 13, 1.37 35mm full frame silent.
If you would like a private tour of our booth just email us ahead of time with a specific show and time that you will be attending and we will try our best to honor your request.
The Heights Theatre is located in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, a Northeast Minneapolis suburb. The theatre was originally constructed in 1926 by Gluek Brewery heir Arthur Gluek as a prohibition real estate venture.
Built in the Beaux Arts style of the last century, the Heights Theatre building was a simple neighborhood movie house showcasing local talent in stage plays and "High Class Amateur Vaudeville Acts." The Heights has survived at least three fires, one bombing and "The Big Blow of 1949" when a Fridley tornado twisted the tower sign.
Tom Letness and Dave Holmgren bought the Heights Theatre in November of 1998. At first sight the theater looked completely different: it was a turquoise box. The original blueprints from the University of Minnesota's archives revealed that the ornamental plaster of polychromed woodwork and the front windows had been walled-up during World War II. To top it all off the previous owners had slathered the building with turquoise paint.
Today the theater has been restored to its original glory. A scarlet motorized Grande drape covers the proscenium stage and gilded grills conceal the organ's pipework. Antique chandeliers are suspended from the ceiling restored with 2600 Egyptian lead crystals. Hand-painted reproduction Edison Mazda bulbs in four colors on separate circuits allow a multitude of effects from 152 lights above four hundred seats. An orchestra pit was discovered under the floor where the mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ now rises for Friday and Saturday night concerts.
The Heights has a grand piano in the lobby and an upright piano in the auditorium connected to the organ. The 1926 Williams Brothers steam boiler was replaced with two new high-efficiency hot water boilers and new electrical service as well as plumbing upgrades has been completed over the years. The entire lobby and auditorium were recarpeted, and a sparkling new tower sign crowns the marquee.
Tom Letness, who became sole owner of The Heights in 2003, specializes in upscale first run films, classic film series and events.