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Standing in the hall of fame
Mike Muller remembers launching his career in the theater business.
The year was 1948 and he was selling popcorn at his grandfather’s theater in Annandale. His commission of two cents per bag wasn’t bad for an eight-year-old who could buy an ice cream cone for a nickel or go to the movie himself for 15 cents.
Some nights he literally didn’t make a dime, while his biggest haul of $4.28 came when businesspeople visited the area for bank night.
Muller, who now owns eight movie theaters, was recently inducted into the National Association of Theatre Owners Hall of Fame in the Midwest region for “outstanding leadership, dedication and service.”
He took the news of the award in stride.
"I asked (North Central NATO President) Jeff Logan, 'Does that mean I'm going to die?' He said, 'I hope not,'" Muller recalled. "I joke a lot, but I was pretty honored when he said I'd been nominated for the hall of fame."
Muller credited his grandfather and aunt for teaching him good work habits.
From selling popcorn as an eight-year-old, he moved on to sell tickets and run projectors at the Maple Lake Theatre. After high school, he began booking shows, which came with perks.
"Mark Rosen's dad Joe was a salesman for Paramount. When he came to Maple Lake, he found out I liked sports. I said, 'I'd like to see the Yankees.' He said, 'I'll get you a couple tickets for each time they come to town,'" Muller recalled.
He went on to attend college and serve in the military, but sold tickets in Monticello whenever he returned to the area.
His role in the theater business became more permanent in 1978, when he and his wife, Jane, bought the Monticello theater. They added a second screen in 1981 and he joined forces with his brother, Bob, to purchase the two-screen Delano theater three years later.
Muller Family Theatres are now in six other communities – East Bethel, Lakeville, Rogers, Waconia, White Bear Township and Willow Creek – for a total of 104 screens.
More information appears in this week's Messenger.
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