Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Walter Lower Jr.
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Lake Theatre to celebrate 80 years


March 23, 2017

courtesy Lake Theatre

This late 1930s photo shows Lake Theater on the left on a bustling Moose Lake street.

Some business dreams last more than a generation. The Lower family has been in the theatre business in Moose Lake for five generations. The family first opened The Strand in 1919 and then Lake Theatre in 1937.

The first movie theatre in Moose Lake, "The Majestic," was started by Mr. Walmack in 1914. This Theatre burned in the 1918 Fire and, because of a lack of business, wasn't rebuilt.

H. K. Lower (Jeff), a local businessman, was a fan of movies and believed the town was in need of entertainment after the fire. He, at first, tried to convince others to start a new theatre, but when that failed to materialize he decided to start one himself. He converted his new dance hall, built on the fire ruins of his livery stable, into a theatre. Not having any idea what was needed, he went to Minneapolis and started buying equipment for his new endeavor. The new theatre named "The Strand" was open for business on July 4, 1919, and was located downtown on 4th Street.

Until 1928, the shows were silent with only subtitles. To entertain the crowds, Martin Pearson played the violin and his wife, Mamie, played the piano, which was also a player piano. This same player piano is still working its magic today and playing its tune before the shows. The Strand building was later used for Solhiem's Hardware and is currently 4th Street Apartments.

By the mid-1930s, it was obvious a larger, up-to-date theatre was needed. In 1936, theatre architect Perry Crusier was hired by Mrs. H. K. Lower (Katherine) and Walter O. Lower. The new building was finished in 1937 by Sandahl Construction and opened on March 26, Good Friday.

Renamed Lake Theatre, it opened with "Love is News" and tickets cost .10 to .15 cents. The equipment and furniture were of the latest fashion with a color design of blue and gold and seating for 450. There was a basement lounge with modern chrome furniture next to the bathrooms and a cry room upstairs for mothers with newborns. It had a large neon marquee, which lit up the sky for miles around. The marquee was hard to maintain and finally struck by a truck in 1950 and heavily damaged. So another architect was hired in 1952 and a new entrance and marquee were added, along with the bathrooms being moved from the basement to the main floor. This is the theatre you see today, with recently added updates including new surround sound, 2D digital projector and new seating for 312.

Over the decades the theatre has provided hundreds and hundreds of area youth with first time jobs and skills. It's one of the last of its kind in the nation going back to a different time and era. Movie theatres have taken on many challengers over the years. The first being radio, then black and white TV, color TV, VCRs, satellite, cable, video games, DVDs, Internet, streaming such as Netflix, 3D and more.

Hopefully, they will continue to survive and provide family entertainment, memories and youth employment for generations to come. Times may change, new technologies will come and technologies will go, but our fond movie memories will always remain.

Happy 80th birthday, Lake Theatre. Thank you for all the wonderful years.

The Lake Theatre would like to invite our wonderful patrons to help us celebrate 80 years of movies with a free movie: Disney's 1937 "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" on Sunday, March 26, at 2 p.m.

For more on Lake Theatre, visit


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