Lawler Theatre

Downtown Rochester

Lawler Theatre

Rochester, Minnesota 55902, United States

Created By: History Center of Olmsted County


Martin C. Lawler spared no expense in building his new B.B. Theatre show house in downtown Rochester, and took pride in declaring that the $50,000-theater was entirely fire proof. But the theater, which opened in 1916 and was soon renamed the Lawler Theatre, could not escape the wrecking ball in 1988. By that time, the Lawler was both the oldest and the last surviving downtown movie palace in Rochester, a relic of an era that had been left behind in the move to suburban multi-plexes.

The opening feature on Sept. 30, 1916 was the silent photoplay “The Sting of Victory,” a Civil War drama featuring silent movie star Henry B. Walthall, who had gained fame a year earlier in the lead role of Confederate Col. Ben Cameron in D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation.” On that opening night, the flashing lights of the marquee welcomed theater-goers, who filled every one of the theater’s 550 seats. In early years, the Lawler also hosted vaudeville shows and classical music concerts.

The Lawler was located at what was originally 221-223 S. Main St. (later First Avenue Southwest). It was taken over in 1983 by Carisch Theaters of Wayzata, which kept the doors open for two more years. The final movie to be shown when the Lawler closed for good on July 18, 1985, was “Prizzi’s Honor,” starring Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston.

History Center of Olmsted County

This point of interest is part of the tour: Downtown Rochester


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