Local Current Blog

Fams remember Prince at Parkway Theater ‘Purple Rain’ screenings

The marquee at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis for a spring 2019 'Purple Rain' screening. (Mary Mathis/MPR)

Three years to the day since Prince’s passing, “fams” packed the Parkway Theater in South Minneapolis for a screening of the iconic film Purple Rain. Shown in its original 35mm format, the film brought back memories and provided comfort to many of the fans who attended. Even 35 years after its release, the film still managed to sell out both shows that day and gave viewers the chance to reflect on their memories of Prince.

Besides fans getting a taste of the film shown in 35mm, the Parkway also created a cocktail for the evening: “The cocktail formally known as Prince.” Fans packed the theater early — many wearing purple attire that included old tour shirts, screen prints, and even purple-jeweled stilettos.

Jon Schoen of North Minneapolis grew up hearing about Prince from his parents. His mom was an extra in Purple Rain, and his dad met the legendary artist when Prince was just starting his music career.

Schoen shared a story that his father often told him about Prince. “My dad is in a band called the Del Counts,” Schoen said. “He was in the studio at Moon Sound with Chris Moon recording jingles in a song called ‘Hang Loose,’ while Prince was hanging out, just getting started, and staying in a cot in the back room.

“Prince is the only person I know that cannot be present with us, but can make people get up and clap like they’re at a show that he was just playing at,” Schoen said after the first showing of the film.

For Bryna Tally of Minneapolis, watching Purple Rain brought back her own memories of Prince.

“I think it’s a cool way to celebrate the life of Prince on the anniversary of his unfortunate passing,” said Tally. “I love him. I miss him. I feel like I am past the point of being sad about it. Now, I’m remembering everything and am happy about the memories I have, which are a lot.”

One of my friends was in a band and played all the time at Bunkers,” Tally recalled. “Prince was there one night and he took me to meet him. Later that night, my friend came over and said, ‘Prince would like to invite you out to Paisley to watch some concert footage from his shows in London.’ It was me and six other people. We watched concert footage until around 3 a.m. It was amazing.”

Alana Pixler and Dianne Spannbauer began a friendship mostly based on their love for all things Prince. Both have attended multiple events around the city and wear matching shirts to show their purple love.

“We don’t miss any Prince events,” Pixler said. “Our hearts broke three years ago. The communal experience of being with other people that appreciate his art, music and style- it’s another place to find a connection.”

Pixler and Spannbauer attended the ceremony at which Prince was given an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota, and they showcase their Prince apparel as much as they can, including on vacations together.

Reflecting on seeing Purple Rain now, Spannbauer said, “We know almost all the words to it. We know every song. We’ve seen it so many times and we are going to cry. It’s a sad day.”

The screenings at the Parkway and other April activities have drawn fans from all across the country, including Alphonso Starr of San Francisco. Starr, who will be headlining his own party at the Pourhouse on April 24, remembers what it was like to meet Prince himself.

I’ve been a Prince fan since nine years old,” Starr said. “To be here in the Purple motherland, which is what we call it, we feel him. We feel his spirit.”

Starr has his own fond memory of Prince. “I met Prince and I have a picture backstage at the Circle Star Theater in 1980,” Starr recalled. “My cousin was a booking agent at the time so I got to go backstage and he was getting ready to come out of the curtain. I asked my cousin if he could take a picture and Prince agreed.” 

On May 2, the Parkway plans to show Purple Rain one more time. An additional event on April 27 is scheduled to celebrate Prince, with longtime keyboardist Tommy Barbarella on the grand piano, accompanied by vocalist Julius Collins. The evening will include music and storytelling about the life and legacy of Prince. More information is available on the theater’s website.

Marla Khan-Schwartz is a writer who is mostly inspired by music, deep conversation, and a bold glass of red wine.