Learn about the history of cinema in Mankato before National Cinema Day

The Blue Earth County Historical Society says Mankato has a history on the silver screen that is often overlooked.
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:22 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:24 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Moviegoers across the nation will be flocking to the big screen Saturday as they celebrate National Cinema Day, and local communities are looking back at the theatrical history in their own communities.

The Blue Earth County Historical Society says Mankato has a history on the silver screen that often goes overlooked.

“What really sticks in my mind is a movie, a full-length feature film, that was written, directed, starred in, supported, funded, everything right here in Mankato in 1965,” Blue Earth County Historical Society Executive Director Jessica Potter said.

“Man on a Mission” was created by Bob Gardner in association with the Mankato Rotary Club.

The film was a Cold War-era spy movie with a cast and crew consisting entirely of local residents.

It was shot on location in places such as Sibley Park and Minneopa State Park, and provides a look into what Mankato looked like nearly 60 years ago.

Mankato also has a history of cinematic culture, with the city having a local theater for nearly as long as the medium has existed.

“At the time that moving pictures hit Mankato, there’s probably at least four different theaters in town that would have been showing these films,” Potter stated.

Many of these theaters stood on Old Front Street, a former hub of downtown Mankato.

The Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center and Mankato Place Mall now stand where Old Front Street used to run, still a bustling hub of activity in downtown Mankato.

Garner donated his original copy and rights to his film to the Blue Earth County Historical Society before his death, and the museum has held two re-showings of the film, once in 1985 and again in 2015.