Denver is an ideal place for outdoor movies; our normally cool, dry and clear evenings make for superb viewing. While the metro area once sported more than two dozen drive-ins, it’s now down to two: the 88 Drive-In Theatre and the Denver Mart Drive-In, which opens June 12. But there are still plenty of ways to see a flick outdoors — and what could be more fun? The informal yet festive programs put on by various organizers are usually enhanced by live music, comedy and more. Add families with picnics and food-truck caravans, and the screenings become equal parts entertainment experience and social event. All shows start around dusk; check with individual venues for more precise times.
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The Ten Best Outdoor Film Series in Metro Denver This Summer
88 Drive-In Theatre
8780 Rosemary Street, Commerce City
$8/person; free for children eleven and under
Saved from the brink last year, the 88 Drive-In is the last old-school drive-in in the Denver area, but it now sports an improved snack bar and bathrooms, not to mention a new digital projection system. The speaker stands remain, as well, though the sound is now piped in via your car radio (and, yes, they’ll give you a jump if you run out of juice). Otherwise, you’d swear it was 1976. Best of all, there’s a triple feature every night.
The Denver Mart Drive-In
451 East 58th Avenue
$10/person; free for children six and under
With a scheduled opening date of June 12, the first new Denver-area drive-in theater in decades promises to be a controlled, family-friendly affair, with strict rules in place concerning smoking, drinking, running your engine and bringing in your own food and drink. But in return, movie buffs get a double feature each evening and the ability to reserve a specific space for their vehicles.
Boulder Outdoor Cinema
1750 13th Street, Boulder
Located behind the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, this series — now in its twentieth year — has a new inflatable screen that has improved the viewing experience immensely. It also has the edgiest film programming out there, with flicks like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Birdman and This Is Spinal Tap on the schedule. The pre-screening lineup can include a live band, trivia contests and surprise shorts, not to mention hilarious emcees. Many people dress up in keeping with the evening’s cinematic theme, and you can bring your own chairs. And couches. And hammocks. And Zafus (it’s Boulder).
Film on the Rocks
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
18300 West Alameda Avenue, Morrison
$12/person (higher at box office on day of show)
The Denver Film Society has built Film on the Rocks — set in the most beautiful natural amphitheater in the world — into one of the must-do events of a Colorado summer, with top-notch opening musical and comedy acts that turn watching a movie into a rock-concert-level experience. This year’s lineup includes The Princess Bride, Jurassic Park, The Breakfast Club and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Friday Night Flicks
Little Man Ice Cream
2620 16th Street
The schedule for Friday Night Flicks — slated through September 25 — is still pending (Little Man promises family films, sing-alongs and classics), but the location speaks for itself. Great ice cream on demand and a relatively small plaza space means that you should get there early. Oh, and there will be free popcorn. Need we say more?
Historic Elitch Theatre Film Festival
4655 West 37th Avenue
$5/person; free for children six and under
The Elitch Theatre hasn’t reopened yet, but films (including The Goonies, Back to the Future and Into the Woods) shown on the lawn in front of the 1890 structure provide the perfect entertainment for the mixed-use neighborhood that was developed on the site of the old amusement park. Pre-show activities include live music and raffles, and Heidi’s Deli sells food there. Screenings go on rain or shine, so bring waterproof gear if you’re a determined cinephile.
Southwest Movies at Skyline Park
16th and Arapahoe streets
The heart of downtown is an unlikely place for cinema, but Skyline Park welcomes the new generation of LoDo and RiNo residents for this community-building series, as well as those from farther afield who love free flicks. The long rectangles of the park form a natural viewing space, and pets are welcome, too (leashed, please). Pitch Perfect, Hook and Jaws are among the eight or so offerings this year.
Monday Movie Madness
4599 East Tennessee Avenue, Glendale
Glendale has long been known for its entertainment offerings, which range from adult-only to family-friendly. Monday Movie Madness falls squarely in the latter category. Held in the massive, sixteen-acre Infinity Park recreation/entertainment complex, the 2015 version of the popular series will include Night at the Museum, Despicable Me and How to Train Your Dragon, for starters.
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Movies on Founders Green
Founders Green @ Stapleton
29th Avenue and Roslyn Street
Screenings on Stapleton’s Founders Green return this year with Big Hero 6, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Fault in Our Stars, among other films. Proceeds from the series’ concession stand benefit a specific local nonprofit organization each week — so bring cash and help your city while you chow down. This venue fills up quickly, so come early.
Movies and Music in the Park
10th Street and Washington Avenue, Golden
The City of Golden got into the outdoor-movie act in 2002 and never looked back. It pairs films — 101 Dalmatians (1961), Maleficent, Big Hero 6, Frozen — with pre-show local bands, making this a good place to pull in on a summer Friday after a long bike ride in the hills. The family-friendly series prohibits smoking, alcohol and off-leash pets.