DU Field Notes: Movie Experiences Worth Leaving the House For
Were you one of the millions of people who flocked to a brick-and-mortar movie theater for “Barbenheimer” recently? If not, we understand. It takes a lot these days to lure most people out of their homes to go see a movie—and a summer blockbuster in a crowded, standard multiplex may not be the ticket.
But Denver has long been a film lovers’ kind of town, and there are plenty of not-so-standard ways to see a movie—as well as some not-so-standard films and film series—that are worth getting off your couch for. So, take a minute to log off your nearest streaming device and see what you’re missing.
Take it outside
Denverites love any excuse to be outside in the summer, and all over the metro area are opportunities to kick back on a lawn chair or blanket to enjoy a movie in the dry, bug-free evening air. Many neighborhood parks offer free movie nights, but for a larger-scale experience, here are a couple local favorites.
Film on the Rocks: If you’ve never been to Red Rocks, the Film on the Rocks series is a great way to experience the world-famous amphitheater while enjoying a classic film, preceded by a performance by a local musical act. The series runs June through August, with the final showing this season being “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” on August 21. Rather than a musical act, the audience will be treated to a National Geographic Live presentation with an aerospace engineer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who will ruminate on the intersection of science and “Star Wars.”
Movies at McGregor Square: Located next to Coors Field in lower downtown (LoDo), McGregor Square is a self-proclaimed “urban refuge” that includes a 17,000-square-foot plaza surrounded by restaurants, shops and hotels. In the center of the plaza is a stadium-sized LED screen, where sports games are broadcast throughout the year and movies are shown on Thursdays at 6:00 p.m. through August 31. Food and drinks are available for purchase; just bring a chair or blanket or come early enough to snag one of the plaza tables.
Blasts from the past
Denver likes to preserve its well-loved entertainment venues (think Lakeside Amusement Park, the Ogden Theater or Casa Bonita). Below are a couple of theaters still offering audiences good old-fashioned movie experiences.
88 Drive-In Theater: If you have access to a car, and you’re up for a drive and some nostalgia, the 88 Drive-In Theater about 30 minutes northeast of downtown is billed as the last remaining original drive-in theater in metro Denver. In operation since 1972, the theater shows double features every night starting at 8:30 for $10 per person. The concessions are even a throw-back, including cotton candy, churros, funnel cakes and pickle pops. Note: You must have a working FM stereo in your car or a battery-powered radio to hear the sound.
Mayan Theater: Denver’s three Landmark Theaters—the Mayan, the Chez Artiste and the Esquire—have long been the go-to movie houses for independent film lovers. But the sophisticated Mayan is the one theater in town that is as memorable as whatever movie you’re seeing. Built in 1930, the Mayan is one of three remaining theaters in the country designed in the stunning Art Deco Mayan Revival style and was named a historic landmark by the city of Denver. Bonus: Landmark Theaters are also known for their popcorn, which is popped fresh, kept hot at 149 degrees Fahrenheit and can be topped with melted Lactantia butter (look it up!).
Denver is home to many film festivals and film series that feature cutting-edge and lesser-known filmmakers from Colorado and around the world. Below are two of the best places to get your avant-garde film fix.
Sie Film Center: Home of Denver Film, the Sie Film Center on East Colfax Avenue is Denver’s only year-round cinematheque. Every week, the Center presents a new batch of first-run exclusives and arthouse revivals—over 600 of them a year, all shown in their original language and format. The Center also hosts a number of film series and events, including the Sci-Fi Film Series, the CinemaQ Film Fest, the Colorado Dragon Boat Film Fest, Women+Film and more. Tip: Go early (or stay late) to have a drink and hang out in the cozy Henderson-Withey Lounge.
Denver Film Festival: The 46th Denver Film Festival, the largest film festival in the Rocky Mountain Region, will be held November 3-12 at the Sie Film Center. The event, which includes red-carpet premieres and films from dozens of countries and hundreds of filmmakers, attracts tens of thousands of film aficionados every year. A variety of packs and passes are available. Colorado is home to lots of other great film festivals, too; check them out here.