For a time during the 1940s and 1950s, downtown White Bear had its own theater district. The Avalon Theatre was the manifestation of the dreams of Mrs. Jesse Jensen, who had come to town in 1920 with her two children and operated the Auditorium Theatre on Fourth Street. By the end of the decade, she had built the grand Avalon Theatre. The interior was designed to give the impression of an English garden, and the auditorium of the theater had a sky dome complete with starlight effects and shifting clouds.
In August 1939, the White Bear Theatre opened on the northeast corner of Third Street and Banning Avenue. The facility was state of the art and had smoking loges “for your comfort,” air conditioning and other amenities.
Throughout the 1940s, both local theaters were active and heavily promoted their contracts with the movie studios, boasting, “You can’t see this show anywhere else in town!” The Avalon Theatre stayed within the family when Jensen retired and her son, Paul Albrecht, took over. The White Bear Theatre changed hands in 1949 when the owner, Mr. Rattner, sold to Howard Goldman. By the end of the 1950s, Paul Albrecht had purchased the competition and shut down the theater; he would eventually remodel and reopen the building in 1968 as the Cine Capri. In 1973, the Cine Capri closed for good, and the Avalon Theatre became the White Bear Cinema, which closed around 1980 and was renovated into shops and offices as the Avalon Mall.
For more information on the history of the theaters in the area, visit whitebearhistory.org, or call 651.407.5327.