Too hot to hike? Escaping into a movie theater to glut on popcorn and blockbuster films is one of the tried and true ways to beat the blazing summer sun. Sure, these $200 million Hollywood titans sometimes crash -- but even if they let you down, you can bank on the pleasure of visiting Denver's hottest -- rather, coolest theaters.
What makes them so good? Most have big enough screens, buckets of popcorn and overpriced soda, but the theaters on this list offer something more. Some are cheap; some serve up gourmet meals; others allow viewers to wallow in nostalgia; many are the biggest of the big. Now, turn off your cell phones and relax for our list.
10) Alamo Drafthouse Whether you want to catch a new blockbuster release, a 1980s rom-com or a cult classic, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema provides some of the region's best programming and most comfortable seats. With a broad booze selection and the tastiest food of any theater in town, Alamo Drafthouse is a haven of comfort and quality. They have sing-a-longs, dance parties and themed menus for people of all ages, from tots to geriatrics.
9) Cinebarre While it may not have the grandeur of the Alamo Drafthouse, if you're looking for cheap tickets to the newest releases and a dine-and-watch experience, Cinebarre is the venue for you. The food is a bit pricy for standard fare and the screens are small, but the projection and sound are good and the staff is attentive -- but not so attentive that they interrupt the show.
8) Century Aurora After the tragic shootings two years ago at the Century 16 in Aurora, many people assumed this theater would close for good -- and many wished it would. And although the theater did close for six months, it reopened in early 2013 after a remodel. Today, it still serves as a gathering place, although the crowds are small, and for some it is a sign of good old fashioned resilience.
7) Landmark Mayan Theatre A blockbuster here may be more of the indie variety, but the old-time ambiance and the first-rate programming in the main theater take viewers back to the era of movie palaces, when each venue had its own style. Back then, going to the movies felt more like a special event than a trip to the mall. You can relive that glorious past here.
6) Elvis Cinemas Remember when dollar theaters cost a dollar? They don't any more -- at Elvis Cinemas, matinees cost $2.50 and evening shows $3.50 -- but that's still pretty cheap, and certainly cheaper than pay-per-view in your living room. So, if you want to watch a blockbuster, and don't mind that it's been out for a few months, Elvis Cinema is your no-frills, no-fuss destination.
5) Harkins Northfield 18 For those who thrive on the buzzing energy of teenagers, the squeals of over-stimulated children and big-name summer blockbusters full of explosions, check out Harkins Northfield. This comfortable theater delivers the first rate sound and projection expected from multiplexes. The staff is friendly and the big screens are big.
4) Landmark Greenwood Village Free popcorn, free soda, a hip bar and comfy chairs: What else can we say? Why pay $7 for a bucket of popcorn when you can fill yourself up for free here. And unlike many of the cheaper theaters, this one has style and perks and is well worth the trek.
3) UA Denver Pavilions 15 Located on the 16th Street Mall, Denver Pavilion is the go-to downtown theater and the perfect place to escape to. The theaters are big and the food selection is broad.
2) UA Colorado Center Stadium 9 and IMAX At the UA Colorado Center Stadium 9, the movie selection is smalller than at some multiplexes, but the screens are not. The population of a tiny village could fit into the IMAX theater and gaze up at an Olympian image that makes most "big screens" seem just slightly larger than a smartphone. The sound and the image are nearly as overwhelming as the special effects that dominate today's blockbusters. If you want to go big, go here.
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1) 88 Drive-In Theatre There is a chaotic energy at a drive-in theater that suggests life might be as interesting as what's happening on screen. Couples might be necking; kids might be running around; a few rowdy good old boys might be sneaking sips off of a forty, and all the while two to three films are playing up on the screen with sound beamed into your car's FM radio. Take a stroll down memory lane and check out the 88 Drive-In Theatre before it closes its gates.