As much as I love the age of streaming, in all honesty, a Netflix bing does not replace the movie-going experience. There is just something about sharing the film viewing experience with the community that makes the film itself (good or bad) much more memorable.
Some of my most fond memories is seeing swashbuckling films like The Mask of Zorro and The Man in the Iron Mask in a tiny mountain town theater. I can also promise you there is nothing like seeing Bladerunner under a sky of twinkling stars at a certain famous amphitheater.
Ready to break up your film routine? Read on to learn about some unique Colorado cinema treasures.
1. At a Drive-In
Seeing a movie at the local drive-in was a weekend staple for many during America’s mid-century. Colorado hosts nine surviving drive-ins that can be found throughout the state. These drive-ins are a real treat because you can often see two films for less than the price of one admission ticket at your local AMC or Harkins movie theater.
Some of the most notable are:
This drive-in is the last original drive-in the Denver metro area. You will get the most bang for your buck at this drive-in because they play three films back to back. Plus, all children under the age of 12 are free. Don’t forget to visit the snack bar.
This classic drive-in is a favorite for many in northern Colorado. The Holiday Twin Drive-In Theater is a two-screen theater and plays a double feature on each screen. Even your furry friend is welcome to join in on the fun.
This motel doesn’t just offer a beautiful view of the mountains it also offers a fantastic view of the Star Drive-In theater, which is located on the premises. All the rooms at Movie Manor have a view of the drive-in and you can hear high-quality sound in your room. This motel also features an old fashioned snack bar.
2. On the Rocks
Watch a film under the stars at the only naturally-occurring amphitheater in the world. Red Rocks Amphitheater hosts movie nights throughout the summer, which are all proceeded by a live concert and a local comedian. This isn’t a movie theater, so you don’t have to devise a clever plan to just smuggle in your snack. Outside alcoholic beverages are not permitted but can be purchased at the venue. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., but you are definitely encouraged to come to the area a bit earlier and explore all the wonders that Morrison has to offer.
3. In Denver’s Old Garden
Many locals are familiar with Elitch Gardens. The original location opened up in 1890 and held the first zoo west of Chicago. The theater was a first for Denver and even showcased the first films ever shown in the western US. The theater is the only thing left of the original Elitch Gardens and unfortunately, due to the fact it was abandoned for so many years, it fell into disrepair. The Historic Elitch Gardens Theater Foundation puts on fundraising events throughout the year, including a summer film series to help raise money for restorations.
4. In a Cemetery
Catch a flick with some of the oldest residents in Colorado. Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery offers free monthly movie nights during the summer. Visitors are welcome to explore the area and visit with some of the locals before the film starts. You can find the graves of Mary and John Elitch as well as many other Colorado legends. At dusk, spread out a blanket and enjoy an evening picnic with your movie.
5. At America’s Oldest Single House Movie Theater
If you find yourself spending an evening in Estes Park you might want to check out the Historic Park Theaters, it’s the oldest operating single house movie theater in the United States. This movie theater offers contemporary and classic offerings. Huge cinema lovers can even get married there.
6. Inside an Art Deco Masterpiece
Denver’s Mayan Theatre is probably the most iconic building on Broadway. The theater was built in 1930 by Montana Fallis and narrowly escaped being demolished in the 1980s. Today, the theater hosts three screens and offers showings of films that you won’t can’t see anywhere else. You’ll impress any cinema lover by bringing them to this wonder.
Coloradoans in west Colorado can visit the sister of the Mayan, the Egyptian Theater in Delta. It might be smaller, but it is not any less magnificent.