First Avenue to purchase Fitzgerald Theater from MPR

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Fitzgerald Theater at night
The Fitzgerald Theater at night (MPR File Photo)

First Avenue and Minnesota Public Radio (of which The Current is a part) have entered into an agreement for First Avenue to purchase the Fitzgerald Theater from MPR. For Minneapolis-based First Avenue — one of the longest running, independently owned clubs in the U.S. — the Fitzgerald Theater will become another of the venue operator's St. Paul properties.

"Our goal is to bring together people with diverse interests and backgrounds, and part of that is expanding the First Avenue family to include other venues throughout the Twin Cities," says Dayna Frank, First Avenue owner. "We're excited about the opportunities for more events and performances in another iconic space in this community."

Built in 1910 as the Sam S. Shubert Theatre, the Fitzgerald Theater is 1,000-seat venue that originally presented Vaudeville shows. In the 1930s, the Schubert, rechristened the World, began screening films. In 1980, the venue was purchased by Minnesota Public Radio, gaining national renown as the home of A Prairie Home Companion and more recently, Live From Here, hosted by Chris Thile.

First Avenue owns and operates the 7th St Entry, the Turf Club, the Fine Line, and the First Avenue Mainroom, and it co-operates the 2400-capacity Palace Theatre. Additionally, First Avenue promotes concerts and events at numerous venues in Minnesota, such as the Amsterdam Bar & Hall; The Cedar Cultural Center; The Historic State, Orpheum, and Pantages Theatres in Minneapolis; and Surly Brewing Festival Field. "Our roots in the community are far-reaching and I think MPR felt good about selling to another organization that is committed to the community, to local music, and to expanding perspectives in the entertainment space," Frank says.

According to a joint press release, the transition of ownership of the Fitzgerald Theater from MPR to First Avenue allows MPR to broaden its reach in hosting events across the Twin Cities and the state while giving First Avenue fans another option on the east side of town. "Saint Paul is becoming a destination for many musicians, just as Minneapolis has been," Frank says. "We're committed to helping to grow Saint Paul's music scene as well."

The sale does not portend a diminishing presence of MPR in St. Paul, which continues to be based in the capital city. "We'll still host plenty of events in Saint Paul," says Jon McTaggart, president and CEO of Minnesota Public Radio. "In fact, we anticipate that MPR will continue to use the Fitz. Now, we will have even more flexibility with our events and performances."

The deal is not finalized, and details are not yet available.

External Links

Fitzgerald Theater - official site

First Avenue - official site

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3 Photos

  • Fitzgerald Theater
    Built in 1910, the Fitzgerald Theater is Saint Paul's oldest surviving theater space. Originally called the Sam S. Shubert Theater, it was one of four special memorial theaters erected by entertainment-industry magnates Lee and J. J. Shubert. (MPR Photo)
  • Shubert Theater, 1910
    A 1910 postcard of the then Shubert Theater in St. Paul, Minn. (MPR Photo)
  • Chris Thile - APHC - February 18, 2017 - 03
    Chris Thile hosts 'Live from Here' at the Fitzgerald Theater in February 2017. (Nate Ryan)

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