Colorado is full of multiplexes. You can see a big blockbuster almost anywhere in the state, but where can you find the more unique movie experiences? The small movie houses, of course.
These days, while providing the indies that you can’t see in the big houses, they also set up special screenings and events like cult classics, Quote-Alongs, and Big Lebowski nights. Here are just a few places all over the state that you should check out to shake up your movie watching experience.
This theater surprised me. I never thought about going to a national chain theater for a unique movie experience, and I thought the Alamo Drafthouse was just your average multiplex. It is true that it is a chain and has more screens than most small movie houses. However, with reserved seating and table service complete with adult beverages, it’s hard not to enjoy one of the best small venue experiences you can find in town. At the Drafthouse you can also expect to be treated to an intro to the film by one of the employees there. Hopefully it will be creative manager, Keith Garcia, who seems to know everything about every film screened there.
So what should you expect from a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse? A good example is the screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds where a radio controlled bird dive bombed the audience at opportune times during the film. A common theme to the special events at the Drafthouse is the half hour pre-film showcase of the director or film-related clips. As part of the Alamo 100 (100 favorite films picked by the Alamo), viewers of Terry Gilliam’s classic sci-fi flick, Brazil, were treated to half an hour featuring Gilliam directed skits, shorts and trailers before the film. Showing up early is definitely worth it at this place. They also have events like Quote-Alongs , Sing-Alongs, as well as the Saturday Cereal Party where you watch cartoons and eat cereal at 10:00am.
While they don’t have a membership program, they do have their Victory rewards program where you can earn free movies and rewards the more visits you have. After you’ve gone once, you will be hooked. If you want to sign up for the program just look in the upper right hand corner of the main page for the Victory sign up/login.
Sie Film Center:
The Henderson’s Lounge is a full bar with cozy seating located inside the Film Center for pre- or post-screening fun. Home of the Denver Film Society, this theater hosts a variety of director Q&A sessions to coincide with screenings and also offer regular series’ like Mile High Sci-Fi, Women + Film, and The National Theater Live. During the Starz Denver Film Festival in November, you will find the theater and lounge bustling for the entire week and a half period with different events and filmmakers to boot. While it remains a small theater, they are always full of possibilities. Stop by, get a membership and check out their newly renovated digs. The Film Center is also known for introducing the films before they start.
More of a concert venue than a film venue, the Oriental will host the occasional cult classic that may very well come with a live concert after the screening. The has a nostalgic feel so you are going to be treated to a unique experience. Check out their calendar for something fun to do any night of the week or set it up to screen your own film there.
Esquire Theater/Chez Artiste/Mayan Theater
The Esquire has been around for ages. One of the long running favorite events at the Esquire is Midnight Madness on Fridays and Saturdays. Every week it’s a different film with the Rocky Horror Picture Show on monthly rotation. Don’t miss the Esquire’s film-related dioramas in the main window. Like the Esquire, the Mayan and Chez Artiste are run by Landmark Theaters. All three theaters have longer running, lesser-known films than Sie Film Center, so you have a little more time to get in there and see things before they go.
Lyric Cinema Café:
Lyric Cinema Café shows the more popular indies like many of the other smaller venues, but it also hosts regular special events. For example, with the soon to be released new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel in April, they are screening his entire catalog a week at a time for all to see. Once a month, they have a cult movie night where they show some of your favorite cult classics. Got kids? No problem! The free cartoon series with $5 cereal bar is there to entertain and feed your little ones… or yourself. A membership to any small movie house is beneficial to them, but also to you as you generally get a discount on tickets and events. Give back while getting a deal. You’ll be glad you did.
Majestic Theater (Crested Butte)/ Ruby Cinema (Gunnison):
Mark and Ali Drucker wanted to add to the cinema watching experience for Crested Butte residents. Although their small theater will show some bigger theatrical releases, you can also pop in for some unique screenings. Once a year they offer showings of the Big Lebowski where you can enjoy a white Russian while watching the film. They like to bring people together, so the town is also invited to watch Monday Night Football in high definition on the big screen. Most of their films are still shown on 35mm, which in this digital age, is difficult to come by. In Gunnison, the Druckers also run Ruby Theater, the 3-D theater at Western State Colorado University Center. Between the two towns, they are able to offer cinephiles a unique film-watching experience.
Boulder Theater is another venue that is known more for its live shows. However every February it plays host to the Boulder International Film Festival and screens other films throughout the year including the Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour and the Fly Fishing Festival Tour. Like the Oriental, they also host film events that allow for a live performance afterwards. One of the best theaters in the state to see live music, much less film, check out their events page and get there. You won’t be disappointed.
Kimballs Peak 3 Theater:
Colorado Springs has a lot of malls and multiplexes to see a movie, but Kimballs is the place to go for an intimate experience in independent and foreign film. Enjoy a full bar while watching your film of choice and see what a real viewing experience should be like. As a first-run movie theater, you get a chance to see some of the best indies when they first come out. Definitely the best place to go for a unique experience in the Colorado Springs/Pueblo area.