The Minne Lusa neighborhood was built as the vision of one man. As Charles Martin’s new neighborhood grew up though, the services residents need were nowhere to be found within the boundaries. Instead, Martin filled his blocks with houses, leaving just enough space for a school and a social club. Businesses and churches were left to line the outsides of Minne Lusa, and they did. One of the late-comers was built at the intersection of North 30th and Mary Streets, and was called the Minne Lusa Theatre.
Opened in 1929, Minne Lusa Theatre was located at 6720 North 30th Street for more than 25 years. It was a suburban wonderland for kids and adults alike. Matinees, features and special showings filled viewers imaginations, while candy and soda filled their bellies. For only $.25 you could see movies like King King, Rodan and The Thing, and for just $.15 you could have popcorn galore. There was a point when, on Saturdays, a child could see a double feature with popcorn for just $.10.
The center of a community commercial district, the theatre sat almost 400 people. With first run movies, the Minne Lusa included a “crying room” for mothers with young children, as well as modern acoustic devices and projectors.
After World War II, the theatre underwent a minor renovation with new seats, paint and more. Equipped with “the most comfortable theatre seats in the world,” there was “no standing up, no stepped-on toes, no climbing over” along with “the latest in acoustics.”
In 1953, the theatre advertised a “new panoramic wide vision screen,” featuring the “entire show in gorgeous technicolor.” Just five years later, it was all over.
There were four storefronts flanking either side of the theatre. They hosted a variety of shops over the years, including florists, a drug store, a dentist and a cafe. Coe’s Drug was in these storefronts, as well as Minne Lusa Radio and Appliance. The Minne Lusa Drug Store was located in the strip at 6716 North 30th for at least 50 years.
In the 1920s, a Hinky Dinky store opened on the corner of North 30th and Titus at the end of the strip. It was destroyed by a fire in the mid-1930s. The Fairway Beauty shop was located between the grocery store and the theatre in the 1930s, too.
There was also a dentist in the strip for a long time.
After the Theatre
The Minne Lusa Theatre closed in 1958. Like all theatre buildings remaining in North Omaha, it has been closed as a theatre longer than it was open, and has had a lot of lives since.
There’s been more than one furniture store there, as well as haunted houses and a wrestling gym. After it closed, the building was home to Minne Lusa Furniture Mart for years. In the mid-1960s, there was a pay-for-play slot racing track in the building with a business called Ray’s Raceway. With 8 lanes, many kids spent hours on Saturdays and all summer long wasting dozens of dimes and quarters in countless races. It was owned by Ray Kopecky. This business became “Action Alley “in late 60s, with donuts and pinball machines, and according to a former customer, one of the first places in Omaha to buy an Icee.
There was a furniture store in the theatre building run by Carl Zacone; later, there was one called Chandlers Furniture. In the early 80s, it was home to Minne Lusa Variety, which sold arts and crafts supplies, gifts, toys, school and office supplies, greeting cards, linens, seasonal stuff and more. There was a pool hall and video game arcade in the building during the 1980s, and surely quarters were spent then by the dozens, too.
In the 1990s, Heartland Family Service moved in and has since renovated the building extensively. According to Chuck Martens, there is nothing visible left inside from the theatre’s existence.
To mention the theatre to people who grew up in the neighborhood though, you’d think Minne Lusa Theatre never closed. Eager to share, I’ve heard stories about horror movies, love stories and comedies that played there. I’ve also heard about romances at the Minne Lusa that had nothing to do with the movie being played.
There hasn’t been a movie theatre in North Omaha for more than 25 years, and there are no indications there will ever be one again. However, the memories linger on in the hearts of those who lived it, and the ghosts who inevitably haunt the old Minne Lusa Theatre.
The following are addresses along the strip, along with businesses and the years I can find evidence they were open.
- 6724 North 30th Street—Hinky Dinky (1935-1950); Minne Lusa Radio and Appliance (1952-1957); Carl Zaconne Beauty Shop (1975)
- 6722 North 30th Street—Minne Lusa Pharmacy (1920-1948), Coe’s Minne Lusa Pharmacy (1964-1968)
- 6720 North 30th Street—Minne Lusa Theatre (1929-1958); haunted houses; wrestling gym; Minne Lusa Furniture Mart (1962-1973); Ray’s Raceway (1964-1966); Action Alley (1967); Minne Lusa Variety (19??-1983); Heartland Family Service (1992-present)
- 6716 North 30th Street—Minne Lusa Pharmacy (1920) (1948-1964); Graham Radio Company (1935-19??); Do-Nut King (1964-1965)