Groups encourage resurrection of Dinkytown’s Varsity Theater

Three area organizations are encouraging the reopening of the Varsity Theater to make Dinkytown a destination for nonstudents.

The Dinkytown Business Association, the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association and the Neighborhood Revitalization Program have joined together to persuade potential buyers to restart the theater.

Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association President Kelly Carver said if a theater was placed in the vacant building, it would attract a more diverse crowd to Dinkytown businesses.

The patrons would likely be people from Minneapolis looking for a new place to have dinner and see a show, he said.

“Dinkytown is really needing some kind of venue to make it a complete entertainment destination,” he said.

The building, whose theater closed in 1988, is priced at $1.4 million.

Neighborhood Revitalization Program spokeswoman Stacy Sorenson said her group will offer a small financial incentive to any potential developer.

“It would be more of a token than anything,” Sorenson said.

Michael Finklestein, a Suntide real estate agent who is selling the building, said it does not matter to him whether it becomes a theater or not.

“We’ll entertain whatever somebody wants to do with the building,” Finklestein said.

A theater might be placed in the building, but he said he does not know if it would make money.

Dinkytown Business Association President Skott Johnson said the building would need renovation in order to be economically viable.

“It would have to be made into two theaters,” Johnson said. “It has room for about 800 seats and no one could sell out a theater that big anymore.”

Johnson agrees that a theater would bring more business to the area.

“I would like to see an increase in day traffic around the Dinkytown area,” he said. “There’s a number of businesses in Dinkytown that want the theater to generate foot traffic.”

But Johnson said Dinkytown businesses will not actively try to recruit theater developers to the area.

Many Dinkytown businesses have an eye on the property, so recruiting outside would take away the businesses’ chance to buy the building, he said.

“When a ‘for sale’ sign goes up in Dinkytown, 500 people call,” Johnson said. “But the price of real estate in Dinkytown is pretty hefty.”

Carver said a theater would contribute to recent revitalization in Dinkytown.

“There are some decent restaurants that have been getting upgraded,” he said. “As the neighborhood continues to be upgraded we would like to see more entertainment destinations.”

Johnson said the building, which was constructed in 1915, once held traveling vaudeville shows. He said there is still a dressing room in the back and a stage with a trap door used for animal and magic acts.