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WCCO Viewers' Choice For Best Movie Theater In Minnesota

CANBY, Minn. (WCCO) -- Even though you can watch a movie on your TV, laptop or iPad these days, great theaters still make going to the movies worth buying a ticket.

With all the holiday releases out now, we went searching for the best movie theater in Minnesota.

Your votes sent us to what was once one of the largest theaters in the state, called the "jewel of southwestern Minnesota," -- the Canby Theater, in Canby.

Movies tell the story of each generation.

"I love classic cinema -- the old-time movies," Jody Olson said. "And to see them on the big screen is just wonderful fun."

The Canby Theater, voted best of Minnesota, has seen 75 years worth of films, from the classic to the quirky. It's been a place for all ages to escape to another reality and fall in love with characters.

But less than two years ago, the building was falling apart.

"The roof was starting to leak, there was some deterioration on the walls," Canby Mayor Gene Bis said. "It was getting run down, and the former owner wasn't maintaining it. I just knew we had to have it."

With the theater on its last leg, the city of Canby was its last hope.

"I talked to several people who said that their first date with their wife was at the Canby Theater," Bis said. "And I thought back to my childhood, and where did I take the first young lady? It was to the theater. I think it's a traditional thing in our country, and I think a lot of people relate to that."

In less than two years, the Canby Theater has undergone a complete renovation.

"It's like a new theater," City Administrator Nicholas Johnson said. "The total cost of Theater 1 came to about $315,000."

All of that money came from the people of Canby via public fundraising. That's right -- no tax money went into the building.

"We sold seat sponsorships," Johnson said. "We sold t-shirts, calendars, burger feeds, soup feeds -- you name it, we probably did it."

So when you say the Canby Theater, it really is the Canby Theater -- made possible by the can-do attitude of an entire southwestern Minnesota town.

"I would go around with the bucket and collect donations," Olson said.

"Almost no one is getting paid," theater manager Mike Tesch said. "It's a labor of love for all of us."

But building the Canby Theater was not just about new, comfy seats and first-run films, it's existence is vital to the community.

"There was a time when you would come on a Sunday afternoon and there wasn't a car parked on main street," Tesch said. "Now it's full of people going to the matinee, out to eat, the gas station. It just shows how we can come together and rebuild the community and excite everybody."

So in this case, it took a village.

"It's a team effort," Tesch said. "Without any one person who was working on the project, It wouldn't be the same. We all work together. We all make it happen everyday."

And although the cinema is a great means of escape, it seems the people in Canby are happy right where they are.

In adddition to new releases, manager Mike Tesch puts together movie series like a Hitchcock-themed weekend and a classics series, featuring favorites like Gone with the Wind.

If you're wondering where Canby is, it's about three hours west of the Twin Cities.

Your other favorite theaters are the Riverview in Minneapolis, Grand Theater in Madison and Brickhouse Cinema in Foley.


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