Denver's Lost Movie Theaters, Take 2

Granada, 2925 West 25th Avenue: Now a suite of offices; some signage was preserved.
Granada, 2925 West 25th Avenue: Now a suite of offices; some signage was preserved.
Brad Weismann

After World War II, downtown Denver started to decay, and movie palaces disappeared. The Curtis Street pleasure row came down, and the grand old houses that remained turned into adult-film showrooms, places that sold beer, too, dark and dangerous and filled with stink. (The tradition of dirty movies downtown is old. A Rocky Mountain News story from October 16, 1928, describes the Gem at 1746 Curtis Street being shut down by the police for showing “stag” films. In 1928! Hotcha.)

I remember my mother walking me to Woolworth’s downtown in the late 1960s, passing the Denham at 1810 California Street, where a placard outside read “ALL MALE.”

“Can we go see a movie?” I asked.

“Not that kind,” she answered. We moved on.

Finally, the last trees came crashing down. The Denham disappeared in 1974, following the demolition of the Centre, the Victory and the Orpheum. The Denver was destroyed in 1980. The Flick got the boot in 1982 — although the wonderful Victorian building that housed it is still standing.

Unmemorable multiplexes were now the thing. But those, too, are going — although their demise is not as regrettable. Was the Tivoli 12 ever anything but an ambitious, unworkable space? The Brentwood 4 at Federal and Evans always smelled bad, and was notable primarily for the variety of illegal drugs available for purchase. Villa Italia suffered from very bad Space Age décor, including forty-foot-long diaphanous lobby curtains that were never cleaned, and rows fifty seats across with no center aisle – god help you if you had a bladder problem.

As far as I can recall, only two single-screen theaters were built in the region over the last 35 years. The first was the Frank Ricketson Cinema at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which boasted a gorgeous projection system and a well-curated art-film program that only lasted from 1980 to 1988 (it’s now a black-box theater for live performance, the Ricketson Theatre.) The second and last is the lavish sixty-seat Boedecker at Boulder’s Dairy Center for the Arts, which opened in February 2011.

Today we have sixteen functioning heirloom theaters in the area. Twenty-one other former movie palaces are still standing, but no longer theaters. Several have become either churches or porn outlets — read into that what you will. For example, 3333 West Alameda Avenue, which once housed the beautiful Tabor, now hosts the Hollywood Love Boutique. Today some of these spaces look like prime targets for redevelopment — and with the current backlash towards such analog pleasures as vinyl, maybe one or two will even start to show films again!

But in the meantime, let’s take a look at more of these cinematic landmarks before they change again — or vanish entirely.

Egyptian/Holiday, 2644 West 32nd Avenue: This theater was a neighborhood mainstay for decades, later becoming a Latin music store. The Highlands Church took over the space and lovingly restored it, retaining the Holiday sign on the exterior.
Egyptian/Holiday, 2644 West 32nd Avenue: This theater was a neighborhood mainstay for decades, later becoming a Latin music store. The Highlands Church took over the space and lovingly restored it, retaining the Holiday sign on the exterior.
Brad Weismann
Tiled entrance to the former Granada Theater.
Tiled entrance to the former Granada Theater.
Brad Weismann
Vogue, 1465 South Pearl Street: Now the Vogue Lofts.
Vogue, 1465 South Pearl Street: Now the Vogue Lofts.
Brad Weismann
The Flick, 1228 15th Street: From 1970 to 1982, first-run and revival prints of art, independent and foreign films found a refuge here. However, its prime Larimer Square location made it vulnerable to redevelopment. For many years a Williams-Sonoma cookware store, it has since held bars and eateries.
The Flick, 1228 15th Street: From 1970 to 1982, first-run and revival prints of art, independent and foreign films found a refuge here. However, its prime Larimer Square location made it vulnerable to redevelopment. For many years a Williams-Sonoma cookware store, it has since held bars and eateries.
Brad Weismann
Basemar/Basemar Twin/Basemar Cinema Savers, 2490 Baseline Road, Boulder: Notable as a murder site — the theater’s manager, Dayton James, was killed by robbers there during the early morning hours of April 26, 1993.
Basemar/Basemar Twin/Basemar Cinema Savers, 2490 Baseline Road, Boulder: Notable as a murder site — the theater’s manager, Dayton James, was killed by robbers there during the early morning hours of April 26, 1993.
Brad Weismann
Ivy, 852 Santa Fe Drive: Now a mixed-use development.
Ivy, 852 Santa Fe Drive: Now a mixed-use development.
Brad Weismann
Ritz/Jewell/Kitty's Mini-Theaters, 1912 South Broadway: Now a Thrill Seekers climbing gym.
Ritz/Jewell/Kitty's Mini-Theaters, 1912 South Broadway: Now a Thrill Seekers climbing gym.
Brad Weismann
Washington Park, 1028 South Gaylord Street: Now an outpost of John Holly’s Bistro.
Washington Park, 1028 South Gaylord Street: Now an outpost of John Holly’s Bistro.
Brad Weismann
Isis/Rex, 817 Main Street, Louisville: When the building was reopened as a restaurant, it revived the Rex name, but did not survive. The name still adorns the building, but the Madera Grill now operates there.
Isis/Rex, 817 Main Street, Louisville: When the building was reopened as a restaurant, it revived the Rex name, but did not survive. The name still adorns the building, but the Madera Grill now operates there.
Brad Weismann
Edison/Highlands, 3625 West 32nd Avenue: The case of the shifting address. First listed at 3623 West 32nd Avenue, then 3487, and finally settling at 3625, this movie house has been the thriving home of bar/restaurant/music venue Mead Street Station for years.
Edison/Highlands, 3625 West 32nd Avenue: The case of the shifting address. First listed at 3623 West 32nd Avenue, then 3487, and finally settling at 3625, this movie house has been the thriving home of bar/restaurant/music venue Mead Street Station for years.
Brad Weismann
Use Current Location

Related Location

miles
Mead Street Station

3625 W. 32nd Ave.
Denver, CO 80211

303-433-2138

www.meadststation.com


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