The Denver Film Society previews its new digs with a screening of Rabbit Hole

It's good to see the old Neighborhood Flix back in business. When it opened up back in 2007, it was an instant hit with a lot of folks in the East Colfax neighborhood it resides in across from East High School, nestled in a corridor behind the Tattered Cover. Sadly, it wasn't a hit with enough folks, and the movie house closed down eleven months after it opened. Now, the Denver Film Society -- which for some years has made its home in the Tivoli at Auraria Campus -- is finally moving in and giving the old Flix something to do. Today, in advance of the Starz Denver Film Festival, the DFS gave press people an advance taste of the new space. And it's looking good.

The chairs, for one thing, are probably the most comfortable chairs I've ever sat in in any movie theater anywhere -- whether Rabbit Hole was any good or not, which the PR people told me I'm not supposed to talk about (until the film's "official" release in January, anyway. No doubt you'll stay tuned), it was a pleasure to watch it just for the chairs. That movie, by the way, which is the story of a couple dealing with the loss of a child in their own neurotic ways and stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, will kick off the Starz Film Festival November 3 with an appearance from Eckhart and director John Cameron Mitchell.

The festival, which has occupied the Starz Theater at the Tivoli since the DFS has been in that space, will be spread across both venues this year and next year, when the DFS's lease on the Tivoli space expires. What with the East Colfax location's comparatively limited two screens as opposed to the Tivoli's six, where festival screenings will be held after the lease comes up is up in the air right now. And Film Festival Director Britt Erickson acknowledges that it'll be an inconvenience.

"It's been a big luxury at the festival to have a main hub -- a lot of film festivals don't have that," she says. "We've been a bit spoiled."

The film festival notwithstanding, though, Erickson posits that, for the rest of the year, the Flix space is a much better fit -- and in more ways than one. "What we've learned over time is that the Tivoli is great for film fest, but it's really too big a home the rest of the time.

"You know," she continues, "This [East Colfax] is a neighborhood, and we're serving a community. Auraria is not really a neighborhood. Maybe it's because Auraria is a non-traditional campus or a commuter campus, but we never really got a foothold with the students there." Also, in the Flix space, the DFS is leasing with an option to buy from current owner Frank Schultz, while at the Tivoli, which is owned by the Auraria Higher Education Center, that was never an option.

What AHEC will do with that space is also uncertain, though Erickson observes that AHEC has been using the theater for pinch-hit classroom space for some time. One thing is certain, though: The Starz name will come down.

That's because Starz has been just a DFS sponsor the whole time -- the entertainment channel doesn't own or even lease the Tivoli space; in fact, it doesn't even administer the programming -- that would be the DFS's job. All Starz did was pay a cool $5 million to have its name on the building and the Film Festival. "It's kind of like Pepsi doesn't get involved with the Nuggets, they just put their name on the Pepsi Center," Erickson explains. To that end, the DFS's film festival will continue to bear the Starz Denver name, at least until 2014, when their naming rights run out with an option to renew.

In the meantime, the DFS is trying to get the space in order and find a restaurant to move in to make use of the full kitchen the Flix space comes equipped with, and it seems things are coming together well. After all, it was originally the DFS that was slated to move into the Flix space in the first place -- but the society wasn't able to come up with the money at the developer's pace. Since that first venture failed two years ago, the hole in the Lowenstein Complex has been an unfortunate waste of a great space, and it's nice to see it fulfilling what, for now, feels like a date with destiny.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte