Cooper Theater Magic

Fond memories of the once-glorious Cooper Theater.

For many St. Louis Park residents, seeing a photo of the Cooper Theater is bittersweet. There are many fond memories, but sadness that this distinctive landmark is gone. It was a fixture on Highway 12 (now 394) for 30 years—1962 to 1992—and provided a unique form of entertainment as well as a fun place to work for many Park teens.  The Cooper was one of only three theaters in the country built specifically to show films shot in Cinerama. Cinerama used three film projectors synchronized to make a panoramic image.  The process wasn’t new; the Century Theater in downtown Minneapolis premiered This is Cinerama in 1952. But unlike the Century, which was a traditional theater adapted to accommodate Cinerama, the Cooper was built to provide the audience with the feeling of being in the picture, be it riding on a roller coaster or flying through the air. The feeling was so realistic that it actually made some viewers queasy. Going to the Cooper was an event, and audiences dressed up to attend. The elegant theater eschewed popcorn for Swiss chocolate and was meticulously maintained—reportedly the lobby was repainted monthly. The auditorium was described by the Star Tribune as a “perfect circle without a quivering piece of hardware.”But the market for Cinerama was limited, and new and better technology came along. The theater fell into disrepair as income could not keep up with maintenance costs. The owners could no longer afford to operate it, and the death knell rang. There was an effort to save it as a historic site or national landmark, but the structure did not qualify. The property was razed in September 1992 and is now the headquarters of a construction company.