Colorado History

Celebrate the save of the Mayan Theatre at a free program Friday

With Broadway now the center of the hipster universe, it's hard to remember that time thirty years ago when Denver's once gleaming "Miracle Mile" -- a stretch of streamlined stores and car dealerships -- had devolved into a malevolent mile of boarded-up storefronts, decrepit hotels and vacant lots. The area was so bad that the Mayan Theatre, an art-deco masterpiece that was one of Denver's premier movie palaces when it opened in 1930, was in danger of demolition.

And then the Friends of the Mayan stepped in. See also: Photos of the Landmark Mayan Theatre's eightieth birthday party

In the summer of 1984, the newly constituted Friends of the Mayan launched the campaign to save the theater, getting it designated a Denver landmark and raising funds to cover the cost of a major renovation. The curtain went up on the new Mayan in 1986, with the restored theater (and giant Mayan figures) downstairs and two smaller screens in the former balcony. Landmark Theaters has been running the place as an arthouse -- complete with one of the town's first cinema cafes -- ever since.

At 9:30 a.m. on Friday, July 25, the Friends of the Mayan will be back at the theater at 110 Broadway to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the building's save and acknowledge the key roles played in the campaign by people like former mayor Federico Peña and former congresswoman Pat Schroeder. The celebration won't end there: Michele Koons, anthropologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and lead curator for Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed, will present a free lecture on Maya culture and the remarkable artifacts in the current exhibition, the largest display ever devoted to the ancient Maya in the United States.

But the Mayan itself is a pretty remarkable artifact. When it opened on November 20, 1930, Denver boosters bragged about what an authentic example of Mayan design it was, and how it "enshrined within its walls the enchanting mysteries of an ancient cultured age," says Friends president Chris Citron. "This presentation will be a unique occasion to again celebrate our own permanent monument to Mayan heritage here in Denver while learning about the fascinating Mayan culture and the latest scientific discoveries about it."

Admission is free -- and anyone who attends will also receive a ticket to Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed. But you need to RSVP to Citron at [email protected]

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun