Turning the page: Future of historic Rochester theater in question


Like a hardcover novel being snapped shut after its final words, the most recent volume of the historic Chateau Theatre in Rochester is coming to an end – and what the sequel may look like is still a mystery.

Currently residing in the downtown Rochester theater is a Barnes & Noble book store. But the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports it will be moving out come Dec. 31, leaving the Chateau Theatre an empty, historic shell with an uncertain future.

From vaudeville theater to bookstore

The theater itself was built in 1927, according to Minnesota Historical Society records, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by the Ellerbe Architects firm as a vaudeville theater, it says on the accompanying National Register of Historic Places nomination form.

It was originally decorated with a medieval theme, and hosted traveling Broadway shows and other events – including the 1954 Miss Universe contest. It eventually became solely a movie theater.

The nominating form described the theater as "significant for its architectural exterior design, for its extraordinary and fanciful interior design." It continues:

"Whatever style designation might be applied, both the interior and exterior are rightly termed 'atmospheric' in the language of theater style and design. The design ... created a mood or atmosphere of make-believe corresponding to the new motion pictures of 1920s Hollywood."

Barnes & Noble moved in more than 15 years ago, ABC 6 reports, but kept the old-timey theater feel intact.

This includes the eye-catching marquee above the entrance – lit, the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau says, with more than 600 light bulbs. Inside, the ceiling is dotted with stars in the night sky, with features such as interior balconies and turrets still present.

Bookstores facing trouble

Historic character and charm, however, weren't enough to keep the struggling Barnes & Noble at the location.

Early last year, the company announced it would be closing one-third of its nearly 700 stores over the course of the next decade, USA Today reported. The largest reason for the poor numbers, USA Today said, was competition from online retail giant Amazon, which had sucked up 44 percent of book sales in 2012 . In addition, Amazon's Kindle line of e-readers was soundly beating Barnes & Noble's Nook line.

In 2011, Barnes & Noble's prime competitor, Borders, shut down completely.

A reason for the Chateau location's closure was not reported, but it is coming. A notice of a "lease opportunity" was posted on the Hamilton Real Estate website (which you can see below). Rates start at $30 per square foot, according to the property listings.

This embed is invalid

The Post-Bulletin reports a number of businesses are looking at potentially taking over the site, including a pharmacy, restaurant, movie theater or live theater.

ABC 6 says some existing businesses in the Twin Cities have even explored moving into the space. The station says Olmsted County property records currently value the site at $3.6 million.

Next Up

PD Shimmers closeup

Man with Parkinson's lights up Plymouth with synchronized light show

"The best medicine I have for my disease is what I try to do with the light show," Mike Justak said.

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 7.34.43 AM

Watch: Drunk squirrel in Minnesota captures the world's attention

The squirrel was immediately cut off after nearly tipping over.

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 7.15.09 PM

Small town gym refusing to close facing lawsuit from attorney general

The gym is facing a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order to halt their operations.

credit card, payment

Money Gal Coaching: Bouncing back after living your best life

Kelly Blodgett started Money Gal Coaching after paying down nearly $50K in debt in 18 months.


When do stores open on Black Friday this year?

Many major retailers will be open Black Friday, some for extended hours.

police tape, crime scene

Man found dead outside home near Cass Lake

The man was reportedly shot outside the property.


Gov. Walz announces $1M in grants to boost Minnesota tourism

The money will be used for marketing efforts to attract people to Minnesota's hard-hit tourist spots.

coronavirus, ICU

Nov. 25 COVID-19 update: 72 deaths ties Minnesota's single-day high

A COVID-19 update will not be provided on Thanksgiving Day.


Revival to open its fourth Twin Cities location

The fried chicken and smoked meat maestros are moving to St. Louis Park.

Duluth and Case Recreation Center

St. Paul to open two extra temporary shelters for homeless people

Mayor Melvin Carter announced the new shelters will be opened in the event of excess demand.