Film Culture in Dinkytown

Dinkytown and environs were home to the burgeoning interest in films and film culture. There were three major film societies, buttressed by the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown and the Campus Theater in Stadium Village. The film societies provided the opportunity to watch screenings of films that would otherwise not be shown in mainstream cinemas. Reprints of articles from film journals were handed out to support the screenings and provide fodder for post-screening discussion. Directors and actors were invited to appear and discuss the film as well as their overall work.


Varsity Theater
1308 4th St. S.E.

The Varsity Theater originally began its life as The University Theater on December 6, 1915. Rechristened The Varsity, the theater re-opened on April 21, 1939 and served as a movie house to the Dinkytown neighborhood for the next 50 years. In 2005 the current incarnation of The Varsity Theater, owned and operated by Jason McLean, opened its doors as a vaudeville house for the 21st Century. Since its reopening, The Varsity has garnered an internationally renowned reputation for being one of the premiere music venues in the country.


Newman Film Society
University Ave. and 17th St. S.E.

In the 1960s the Newman Center on 17th and University hosted a French film society. The films were shown in the basement of the Center.

Dubbed the Newman Film Society, it was founded and run by Rick Reedy and Brian Donovan, then graduate students at the University of Minnesota. Donovan was a close friend of noted film critic Pauline Kael.


Xanadu Film Festival Society

Ron Hall ran the Xanadu Film Festival Society between 1971 and 1974 at the University of Minnesota. The Xanadu had a focus on German cinema.

"I bought my first 16mm films in the late 1960s, showed them to whoever would watch and ran a film society from 1970-1974 on the University of Minnesota campus -- the Xanadu Film Festival -- whose name evolved into 'Festival Films' in 1976."

University Film Society

The most significant of the film societies was the U Film Society. Housed in the Bell Museum Auditorium across the street from the Newman Center, it spilled over into Dinkytown for animated and passionate late night discussions following the films.

 Al Milgrom

Al Milgrom

It was founded by its long-time, and now legendary, Artistic Director Al Milgrom in 1962 and had its naissance in a series of screenings of classic films by Erich von Stroheim and D.W. Griffith.

Milgrom showed independent and foreign films, bringing to this area Ingmar Bergman, Frederico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Satyajit Ray, the French New Wave, and the New German Cinema. In 1984 he launched the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. Hugely popular over the years, the festival has a reputation for strength and creativity and is critically acclaimed.

Renamed the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Society has moved to a permanent home at St. Anthony Main. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival now stretches over a three-week period, hosting over 100 filmmakers and starts and showing more than 300 narrative, documentary, and short films.

In recognition of a career bringing world cinema to the Twin Cities film community. Milgrom was honored by the Twin Cities Film Fest with a star on the Minnesota Walk of Fame on October 25, 2014. Milgrom showed his film “Rediscovering John Berryman” at the Fest.

He is currently completing his 40-year-in-the-making documentary about the 1970 Red Barn protest called “The Dinkytown Uprising.” It will be shown at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival in April 2015.