Denver After Dark: best movie theatres
Going to the movies? Here are the best places to catch a flick this summer.
With scorching temperatures, the recent summer weather calls for an escape from the heat. You might be tempted to duck into an air-conditioned megaplex and watch the latest explosive blockbuster, but Denver offers unique opportunities for viewing films, whether classic sci-fi, indie up-and-comers, family favorites or cult classics.
Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., professor of Film and Media Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver, recommends stepping away from the average movie-going experience and visiting one (or all!) of these unconventional venues for your entertainment needs. Bonus: Many of these events are free!
Sci-Fi Film Series
Sie FilmCenter, 2510 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Blvd.
Now in its 12th year, the Sci-Fi Film Series marries art and science with its showings of classic sci-fi films. Following each screening, Piturro and scientists from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science lead discussions exploring the intersection of science and film, untangling fact from fiction. “This is one of the most popular series in the history of Denver and film, and we’re back in person,” said Piturro. “We hope you’ll join us.”
This year also marks the unveiling of “The Science of Sci-Fi Cinema: Essays on the Art and Principles of Ten Films,” a volume of essays inspired by the series and co-written by Piturro and the scientists he has worked with for more than a decade. The book examines 10 films and discerns the possible from the unlikely and the purely science-fictional.
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Screenings take place Wednesdays at 7 p.m. through Aug. 3, and doors open at 6:15 p.m. Arrive early to grab a drink at the cash bar or purchase a signed book. In addition, MSU Denver Film Club students collect nonperishable food for the Roadrunner Food Pantry at all shows.
Film on the Rocks
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Morrison
Film on the Rocks is back to a fully in-amphitheater experience with live performances and beloved films screened under the stars in an iconic setting. Still to come in this season’s lineup are “The Sandlot” (Monday), “The Greatest Showman” (July 25), “Summer of Soul” (Aug. 1) and “Dune” (Aug. 15). “Movies in the greatest open-air venue in the world?” said Piturro. “Enough said — get out there!” Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with preshow entertainment beginning at 7 p.m. and films starting at 8:30 p.m.
2510 E. Colfax Ave.
A staple of Denver’s independent-film scene, the Sie FilmCenter co-hosts the Sci-Fi Film Series and produces Film on the Rocks (see above), as well as several additional local film events throughout the summer, including Summer Scream at Lakeside, Sunset Cinema, the CinemaQ Film Fest and more. Sie also shows newly released films and art-house retrospectives at its Colfax location. Check out the website for more information about upcoming events and showings.
Neighborhood Movies in the Park
Each summer, suburbs and neighborhoods of Denver host free movie nights in local parks. This year, catch family-friendly films in Thornton, Aurora, Westminster, Glendale, Englewood and more. “We know how to enjoy the outdoors in Colorado, and we’re lucky to have these neighborhood events,” said Piturro. “For me, it’s a dream: movies and being outside. And kids have a place to run around.” Check your city or neighborhood website for an event near you.
88 Drive-in Theatre
8780 Rosemary St., Henderson
The last remaining original drive-in in metro Denver, the 88 Drive-in Theatre has been serving the community since 1972. “Kind of brings you back to being a kid if you are, ahem, of a certain age,” said Piturro. “Back in, pop open the trunk, bring the blankets and pillows and catch a double feature — even the concessions are a throwback!” Admission is $10 per person, whether you stay for one or all features, and children under age 12 get in free.
Backcountry Outdoor Movie Series
Backcountry Base Camp, 6005 Ron King Trail, Littleton
Pack a chair and a picnic and go watch movies under the night sky in this open-air theatre. “These specialty series are becoming popular in Colorado,” said Piturro. “The classics have appeal, and pairing them with great causes is a wonderful idea.” Films are shown every Friday night through Sept. 2. General admission is $25 per car (the theatre is a short walk from parking), and all proceeds benefit the Backcountry Conservation and Education Fund.
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Mayan Theatre, 110 Broadway
Esquire Theatre, 590 N. Downing St.
Chez Artiste Theatre, 4150 E. Amherst Ave.
Catch an independent film, celebrate Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday with the Retro Replay series or get dressed up for a monthly Saturday-night showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” — the Landmark Theatres have it all. “Local indie theatres are happier than anyone to be open again, and they are exploding with fantastic programming to get people in the doors,” said Piturro. “Please support these wonderful theatres as they get back to work.”
Historic Elitch Theatre’s Outdoor Summer Film Series
4550 W. 38th Ave.
The 130-year-old Historic Elitch Theatre, Denver’s oldest cultural venue, hosts an outdoor summer film series through Aug. 19. Prepare to arrive at the original home of the Elitch Gardens amusement park early and bring chairs and blankets. Admission is free (donations are appreciated). Preshow entertainment starts at 7 p.m., and films begin at dusk. Food and concessions are available, with all proceeds benefiting the theatre.