New Thing: See A Movie At ‘The Heights’ (+ voting with your money)

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some are easy, some are suuuuuper hard (at least for me) and some are so, so mundane and easy to complete. You can read about previous adventures here.

Tell me if you guys know this feeling:
Lean-forward-in-your-seat fascination
I-should-probably-be-embarrassed-I’m-this-excited grinning
A just barely suppressed desire to clap like a toddler

It pains me to admit that riding a Segway gave me this feeling and most recently, I experienced this while watching an elderly gentleman toot away on a restored Wurlitzer as they slowly rose out of a stage in a gorgeous, historic theater in Northeast Minneapolis. As our organist tootled through his repertoire of show tunes (including ‘Edelweiss’ and ‘Give My Regards To Broadway,’ obviously) the lights on the Wurlitzer changed color and I leaned back in my comfy, velvet seat, grinning like an idiot.

Growing up in rural Minnesota, it was a major point of pride that our town of 2,000 had a movie theater. Sure, we only had one stoplight but we had art deco murals, a marquee filled with blinking yellow lights, reasonably priced popcorn, and a screen twice as big as what you’d find in those cineplexes.

So when I heard about The Heights’ live, pre-show Wurlitzer performance and their $8 indie movies I couldn’t wait to hunker down and engage in some good old fashioned nostalgia. It was so wonderful and sweet I promptly signed up for their newsletter and announced to all and sundry that this is where you can expect to find me every Friday night this winter.
Ass in chair, grinning like a dork at a light up organ.

And on a related note, I’d like to pull out a tiny soap box and remind you of something you already know: 
We vote with our dollars.

Each time we spend money at an independently owned business that gives back to the community and pays employees a living wage, we’re voting for the kind of world we want.
When we go to a movie at The Heights rather than Mann Cinema, we’re voting for light up organs, thought-provoking movies, and community engagement. We’re voting against $10 popcorn and movies like this.
Rant finished.
If you’re interested in your own vintage theater experience, there are still tons all over the U.S.: The Riverview (this is in the Twin Cities and I go there all the time! Movies are $3!), The Orpheum Theater in L.A., The Byrd Theater in Richmond, VA, The Senator Theater in Baltimore, MD, The Castro Theater in San Francisco, The Fargo Theater, The Alabama Theater, Screenland Armour in Kansas City, Galaxy Drive-In in Ennis, TXThe Tampa Theater (I saw a movie here in March and it was AMAZING.)Do you have an awesome, historic movie theater near you? Leave a link in the comments and I’ll edit this post to include it!
interior photo by 

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

You might also like…

New Thing: Forage For Mushrooms

New Thing: Forage For Mushrooms

What's hard to find, super valuable, and tastes heavenly with scrambled eggs? If you guessed a. the right romantic partner b. a really good pair of leather boots c. morel mushrooms you are correct. Every year, I make a list of new things to try and I've been wanting...

read more
New Thing: Be In My Life

New Thing: Be In My Life

Every year I make a list of new things to try. These New Things are a pretty predictable mix of physical challenges, weird foods, and books/movies that everyone-other-than-me is familiar with. But this year, I’m trying something different. Something that’s, honestly,...

read more
New Thing: Read East of Eden

New Thing: Read East of Eden

I always thought that I hated Steinbeck. His books seemed to be a never-ending parade of men and farms and depression and desperation. I remember dragging myself through Grapes of Wrath in 11th grade English, staring into the middle distance with bone-shaking boredom...

read more


  1. Laura

    The Alabama Theatre in Birmingham is my happy place. It's HUGE, was built in 1927, and shows old movies as well as holds concerts. There is a Wurlitzer sing along before every movie and it's wonderful. It's Egyptian themed, serves alcohol, and the ladies' restroom upstairs has a row of vanity tables.

    It's also where my grandparents had their first date 🙂

    I want to live there like a young, glamorous Phantom of the Opera.

  2. Christine

    My husband and I love to go to the Galaxy Drive-In theater in Ennis, TX. We live around Dallas and it's just a short drive. You can watch a double feature for $6 a ticket and they have a great snack bar. A date night there only costs about $25 and we have the best time. They have vintage cartoon ads and oldies playing on the radio too. A lot of drive-ins are closing and we love supporting ours! Great post, definitely something to check into when we travel.


  3. sooz -

    In my little town in England we're trying to raise enough money to buy the building that was the cinema, before being turned into a shop in the 1980s, and turn it back into a cinema and arts centre. I really hope it happens, independent cinemas are the best!

  4. Manisha

    Fun! You were in my part of town. I used to go to the Heights all the time but haven't been there in a couple of years. It is so beautiful. We have another old theater here in NE called the Hollywood and I so hope they do the same for that one. It is so close to my home, I could walk. Did you sneak a camera in? Or was it your cellphone. I got busted with my camera once but they were nice about it and just asked me to leave in my car but then were all concerned about whether I put it out of sight so no one would break in and take it.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Funny! They didn't even notice I had a camera!

  5. Rachel Ann

    Everything about this is perfect. I "grew up" in San Francisco (moved there when I was in HS) and the Castro Theater is still one of my favorite places. They do sing along movie musicals with costume contests and little themed gift bags! It's the best!

  6. Mary Margaret

    The Redford Theatre in Detroit. Fabulous! Owned and operated by the Motor City Theatre Organ Society. Plush seats, cheap tickets and snacks, great music, wonderful decor and always a great night out. We have been coming for years, but just took all our (little) kids to see Singing In The Rain.

  7. ashlie

    The Strand in Clinton, Massachusetts (about 45 minutes from Boston) is a beautiful historic theater, complete with huge and sparkly marquee. You can buy food and beer or wine while you watch your show, and they do cool events, like a summer classics series (they have an original print of Jaws) and showings of It's A Wonderful Life in December. A few years ago, they did a tour of the theater and a lecture about the history and different uses over the years. A local horror director screened his features there, once, too. I'm realizing I could ramble about this place forever. It's pretty awesome.

    • ashlie

      Went to get the link and saw they're doing Rocky Horror Picture Show for adults and the Polar Express with bells and hot chocolate. I'm more obsessed than I was before.

  8. Caitlyn

    Yay, thanks for mentioning the Senator in Baltimore!! That place is awesome – exactly as you described the theater in your home town, art deco everything and a HUGE screen. And the bathrooms? WOAH they are the epitome of elegance.

    And kind of a funny coincidence – you mentioned watching the Wizard of Oz with the Dark Side of the Moon album in another post. I commented that I had seen that in a theater… and that theater was the Senator! They really do have the most fun events and I LOVE supporting them!

Pin It on Pinterest