Film is my passion. It has been since my father made me watch anything from classic films like Charade to more unique films like Time Bandits in grade school. Little did he know, he would help create the cinephile I am today. I am always looking for new experiences with film. Sure, the big multiplex can be great for a blockbuster but there must be better ways to enjoy the cinema without footing $15-20 for a ticket alone.
Denver features a handful of amazing small theaters that host unique films you won’t find anywhere else, but if the weather is right, you should also dip into the outdoors to see some old classics. That’s right: the outdoors.
Denver and the surrounding areas offer some great choices to get out in the open air and enjoy not only a film on the screen, but the stars in the sky. With everything from Film on the Rocks to Civic Center Bike-In Movie Series, I’ve collected some ideas for you to get your film kick and save the big theaters for things like Star Trek (which I highly recommend).
For the past two summers, Civic Center Park has opened its beautiful space to locals by hosting free film screenings. For one Thursday and three Fridays this summer, you can bring a picnic or buy your dinner from one of the many food trucks brought in for the event. Hang out and get comfortable. The film starts at dusk for your enjoyment. Everyone is welcome; you don’t need a bike. So grab your blanket and pick up some food truck treats. It’s time to watch.
Don’t miss: The Goonies
Film on Fridays: $5 ages 14 and up/free for kids under 14
The Historic Theatre in Elitch Gardens has been around since 1891. It was part of the original amusement park that has since been moved to downtown Denver. The non-profit cost of tickets goes towards the upkeep of the historic theatre and programming. Bring a blanket and some snacks and starting at 7pm you can find your seat and enjoy local live music in one of the most historical parts of Denver. This will be the best $5 you’ve spent all summer with food trucks, contests, and activities for the kids and more. Look out for classic cinema featuring actors who had previously performed at the theatre itself. Films start at dusk.
Don’t miss: High Noon
For those who are north of Denver, you may have missed Willy Wonka but there are still two screenings left for the Movies in the Park in Firestone. This summer the town of Firestone is building on their success from last year’s Movies in the Park and added a few music nights. Bring a picnic and a blanket to get cozy with the family early and at dusk get ready for a family film outdoors. Be sure to check out their music nights as well and enjoy the summer fun in a local small town.
Don’t miss: How to Train Your Dragon
Denver’s newest movie house, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, presents this event in the parking lot of Aspen Grove shopping center on Tuesdays. You can bring your own chair or rent one. Just bring some snacks and watch the excitement unfold. Each night features different movie themed events presented before each film for the whole family to enjoy including things like a BMX presentation before ET -- just be sure to get there early! They offer $4 beers with the proceeds going to charities like the South Platte Humane Society.
Don’t miss: E.T.
Boulder Outdoor Cinema: Suggested donation of $5 for adults and $3 for kids 12 and under
Boulder Outdoor Cinema has been the summer entertainment for locals since 1995, making it a tradition to spend your Saturday nights listening to live music and watching films under the stars. Its donation-based system has allowed them to staff the events and get the tools necessary to entertain. Located in the lot behind the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, they will accommodate all types of seating so that everyone can see. Keep in mind if you bring a tall chair, you might be further back. With contests and live music starting at 7pm, you will be thoroughly entertained until the film starts at dusk.
Don’t miss: Moonrise Kingdom or Monty Python and the Holy Grail (This whole line up is great so you should spend as many Saturdays there as possible.)
Film On The Rocks: $12 (VIP packages for pre party and/or party bus available)
Film on the Rocks plays all summer, generally on Tuesdays. Yes, ticket prices are $12 but you need to understand what you are paying for. You are paying for one or two bands before the film starts at dusk and as well as the privilege of watching said film under the stars at Red Rocks. Red Rocks is MY Disneyland -- it is my happiest place on earth. Not to mention the series is put on by the Denver Film Society so you don’t need to worry about the money going to big Hollywood. This year they have even started a Kickstarter campaign to get a new digital projector for the Sie Film Center. Contribute to one of the best movie houses in Denver and see The Big Lebowski on the big screen at Red Rocks? What could be better?
Don’t miss: The Big Lebowski or The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Again, great line up. Get to as many as you can!)
Don’t forget to keep an eye out in your local community papers and guides. Many times during the summer they have small events that include a free movie under the stars.