The colorful history of the State Theatre includes three noteworthy events, any of which could have been the final blow to the magnificent downtown landmark. Fortunately, the historic structure survived and is coming back stronger than ever.
In many ways, the ups and downs of the building have followed the development, downturns and revival of the greater downtown area.
The State opened in 1926 as Sioux Falls’ newest state-of-the-art theatre. The State thrived for 65 years, but due to a declining downtown closed unceremoniously in 1990 and slid into disrepair.
In 1991, the State survived a major threat when the neighboring Hanson Building burned to the ground. The Theatre not only survived but sustained very little damage due to the rapid response of the Sioux Falls Fire Department and the excellent structural integrity of the building.
The Sioux Falls Film Society bought the vacant, aging building in 2001 and saved it from continued deterioration and possible demolition by replacing the failing roof system.
The Film Society passed the building to a new group in 2005, headed by Downtown Sioux Falls Inc., whose mission was to identify a new use for the building.
Stacy Newcomb-Weiland, a longtime leader of our organization and its unofficial historian, recalls that the Theatre escaped demolition when serious proposals to turn the building into office or retail space were considered. The threat of the State Theatre being demolished lead to the formation of the current entity, the Sioux Falls State Theatre Co., a 501c3 nonprofit.
This organization has a mission to preserve and perpetuate the historic State Theatre and a vision that the beautifully renovated facility be open every day, be provocative in its offerings, and act to draw people back to downtown Sioux Falls over and over again.
To date the various efforts have raised and spent more than $4 million. The money has been used to complete all construction and business plans, replace all major infrastructure, restore the lobby, concession stand, restrooms, and most recently complete the restoration of the historic Marquee.
The building has survived multiple threats and is moving steadily toward being available again for film, performance, live music, meetings and social gatherings.
More money is needed to complete the renovation and reopen this historic treasure to public use. Efforts to raise the needed money are ongoing.