Intending to breathe new life into one of Minneapolis' oldest movie houses and best-known entertainment districts, the redevelopers of the Uptown Theatre have booked some homegrown talent and one Rock & Roll Hall of Fame act to kick off their new era.
Twin Cities favorites Yam Haus and Prof and funk legends George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic all were announced Tuesday as the first batch of performers at the reborn theater, which is being converted into a 2,500-person concert hall by the same development company that successfully rebirthed the Armory in downtown Minneapolis.
Pop/rock energizers Yam Haus — who made a run on the "American Song Competition" last year — will perform on opening night May 5 at the new Uptown. Hip-hop party man Prof is then scheduled for two nights, June 23-25, followed by viral Australian singer/songwriter Ruel on June 26.
As for Clinton and P-Funk, they're not due to play there until Sept. 16, but tickets for their show will go on sale along with all the others on Friday at 10 a.m. at prices not yet publicized. The "One Nation Under a Groove" and "Atomic Dog" hitmakers will have a special guest with them at the show: George Porter Jr. of New Orleans' mighty Meters, who vies with former P-Funk player Bootsy Collins as the funkiest bassist of all time.
VIP tickets to Prof's shows are already on sale via a new ticketing platform, SeeTickets.com. The second of his gigs, June 25, is all ages. Other ticket information for these concerts has not yet been made available.
The new Uptown Theatre would resemble St. Paul's First Avenue-run Palace Theatre in size and concept, with an open floor and seated balcony and capacity for 2,516, according to city permits. The theater sits on the corner of Hennepin and Lagoon avenues and has long served an anchoring presence there.
Its redevelopment comes courtesy of Ned Abdul, whose company Swervo owns the Armory and has remade several other properties in downtown Minneapolis.
After news got out of his plans last year, Abdul told the Star Tribune he believes the new Uptown Theatre can help revive its namesake retail and nightlife neighborhood south of downtown. The area was hit hard with riot damage, crime and vacancies during and after the COVID-19 lockdown and following George Floyd's murder in 2020.
"I love this city, I love Uptown, [and] it makes me sad to see the impact to the city since the pandemic," Abdul said.
"What is missing in Uptown are people. We are making this reinvestment in the neighborhood because I believe this multipurpose venue will be a new destination to help spark the resurgence."
Swervo took over the Legeros Building next door to the Uptown in 2021 to combine the two buildings into one 10,000-plus-square-foot space for concerts, comedy shows and other live events. Among Swervo's partners in booking the reborn space is concert industry giant Live Nation, which also works with the local company at the Armory.
Movies, which were the theater's mainstay for most of its 105-year history, will be only a minor part of programming.
During the pandemic, the company that ran the Uptown for 43 years, Landmark Theatres, failed to pay $340,000 in rent and agreed to vacate the space in June 2021. Landmark also operates Lagoon Cinema, a five-screen multiplex a block away that is still showing movies daily.
Tuesday's press release announcing the first concerts also included these details of how the new Uptown Theatre will operate:
"While it will not be a full-time movie theater anymore, the iconic balcony is staying, allowing for fixed seating. In addition, special film screenings and movie premieres are plausible in the future.
"The theater will offer intimate experiences for fans with a general admission floor and reserved mezzanine seating with incredible intimacy and sightlines of the stage. There will also be premium boxes on the second level with in-seat service."
Here's the initial calendar of concerts announced Tuesday:
- May 5: Uptown Theatre Kick-Off Party with Yam Haus
- June 23: Prof
- June 24: Prof
- June 25: Ruel
- Sept. 16: Parliament-Funkadelic with George Clinton and George Porter Jr.