The Century Theatre originally opened in 1908 as a 2,000 seat vaudeville house called the Miles. It was built by the Minneapolis firm of Kees and Colburn and designed in an Art Deco/French Renaissance style. It was one of four historic theatres on the block where City Center is now located–The Century and Strand Theatre faced Seventh Street and the Gopher and Aster Theatre faced Hennepin Avenue.
In 1915, it was renovated and re-opened as the Garrick Theatre and featured live stage shows and motion pictures until 1928. One year later, it was re-designed by the architectural firm Liebenberg and Kaplan, renamed the Century Theatre and showcased as the most up-to-date movie house west of Chicago when it officially opened in September 1929. It had a seating capacity of approximately 1,600 with its 4,500 lightbulb vertical marquee rising more than 25 feet above the façade.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, it hosted mostly second-run films and the occasional live show until closing again in 1954 for another renovation. When it reopened as the Century Cinerama with a reduced capacity of 1,145, it featured the new technology of widescreen projection onto a deeply curved screen and became only the eleventh theatre in the United States to include this new technology.
Theatre fans embraced this new way of watching movies and soon the Century Cinerama rivaled the State Fair as a tourist attraction, with the 1963 Elizabeth Taylor film “Cleopatra” playing there for more than a year. The era of cinerama waned after a long showing of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and the theatre closed in 1964. A fire broke out and gutted the theatre several weeks later and the building was demolished in February 1965.
The site is now part of City Center and has been transformed into the New Century Theatre, a flexible use performance space established by Hennepin Theatre Trust to increase its arts education and presenting activities. The Trust will use the new theatre for shows similar to those it presented at Hennepin Stages including Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women and A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol. It will also be home to local and touring performances and for education initiatives offered by the Trust, such as the Broadway Confidential series, student cabarets and training for the SpotLight Musical Theatre Program.