All the Perks
Watch your favorite movies in style with our beautiful amenities.
Built in 1940, Park Theater was one of the Art Deco sister theaters built by the Baehr Brothers.
Relax in the comfortable recliners in all 3 screens.
Check out the snack bar for your favorite treats for your favorite show.
THE THREE SISTERS
Before Park Rapids ever received its classic movie house marquee on Main Ave., it all started with some siblings. Brothers A.W. and E.J. Baehr opened their first theater in Bemidji, MN, in 1933. By 1939, the William A. Baehr Organization, Inc. had grown to include real estate and oil investments, and by 1944 they owned a total of 14 theaters and their buildings.
 Crow Wing County Historical Society, Jan. 15, 1938: http://www.crowwinghistory.org/buildings.html#BAEHRBUILDING, & Northland Times, Jan. 21, 1944: http://bemidjihistory.com/newsclips.php
In 1939 and 1940, Baehr, Inc. constructed a trio of Art Deco theaters, gracing various northern Minnesota main streets with three new Baehr Buildings. These sister theaters were each named after their new respective homes: Breckenridge had “The Ridge Theater,” International Falls was home to “The Border Theater,” and Park Rapids got “The Park Theater.”
The Park Theater is the only one of its Art Deco sisters built by the Baehr brothers that is still in operation today.
While continually in operation as a movie theater since its opening, little is known about its ownership before the 1970s.
Dorothy & Norman Olsen owned The Park in the late 1970s but sold it to Pam Wasche’s parents in 1984. Pam’s family was on their way to a ski trip when they stopped by Park Rapids to see the historic theater. The Wasches told the Olsens that if they ever felt like retiring, just let them know and they’d buy the place.
Within days, the Olsens took them up on the offer.
The Wasches owned and ran the theater from 1984 to 2022, when they sold it to Tim & Rachel Oberg.
RENOVATIONS & UPDATES
For a half-century since 1939, the theater had been an open auditorium single-screen movie house that could seat more than 550, with a curved stage in front of the screen for occasional live performances and housed a single 35mm projector.
In 1991, the single screen was replaced by two side-by-side, with a wall built down the middle of the auditorium, and a second 35mm projector was added. The newly “twinned” Park Theater could now exhibit twice as many showings as before, although the long and narrow auditoriums gave viewers seated in the back rows a slightly awkward feeling of aiming down a shooting gallery.
But in 2011 the two screens became three, improving things once again. A single large screen was restored in the original position as the 1939 original, with two smaller screening rooms constructed immediately off the lobby.
The 2011 renovations also saw upgrades to the original seating, which now featured new seats throughout and stadium seating in the large auditorium. The 35mm projectors were also upgraded to digital projectors, with the largest screen getting an upgrade to host 3D showings.
On the warm Monday evening, just before 7:00pm on July 24, 2017, there were between fifteen and twenty people spread out between the 3 screens getting ready to watch Dunkirk, War of the Planet of the Apes, or Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Co-owner Scott Wilson had been selling admission tickets, and the feature films were about to begin, when he thought he smelled smoke. He hurried from the ticket booth further into the building to locate the smell, but it was no longer present. Upon returning to the ticket booth near the front entrance, a latecomer approached the window:
“I need one ticket to Dunkirk,” he said, then added, “…by the way, your marquees on fire.”
Wilson ran outside to be greeted by small orange flames licking the metal surface of the iconic Art Deco overhang above the sidewalk.
Firefighters arrived and promptly extinguished the blaze before it spread from just the signage to any part of the building on which it hung. Everybody inside was safely evacuated, including the late arrival. That Dunkirk ticketholder had, however, already purchased his popcorn and soda and had found his seat at the screening, apparently not minding the fire he saw on the way in.
It was later determined that the aging wiring inside the sign caused sparks to arc. Despite its metal construction, the wooden supports within the sign caught fire, and the flames crawled across the surface of the panels and all of the neon lighting.
The marquee had to be carefully rebuilt of all new materials to the exact specifications of the original, but this time with upgraded electrical and a combination of traditional neon tubing with modern LED lighting. (The Washes also seized the opportunity to add space for a 3rd line of letters on the marquee, to better display the 3-screen offerings of the updated theater.)
As the safely evacuated moviegoers whose showings were canceled that Monday night gathered on the sidewalk to watch the firefighters in action, Wilson made his way through the crowd collecting names and numbers to issue refunds. Many declined, simply saying “Don’t worry about it. This was still quite a show!”
Why Choose Us
The best place to sit, relax, and watch a movie in Park Rapids, Minnesota.
Has a variety of snacks available to keep us full and hydrated during the movies.
The employees are so helpful and friendly, I love coming to see a show here.