Best Movie Theater — Comfort 2014 | Alamo Drafthouse Cinema | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

When you snuggle up with a dreamy date, the stiffest, smallest movie-theater seats start feeling plush. The true test of movie-theater comfort is to go solo and sit between two strangers in a crowded theater — and there is no theater to which we would rather go alone than the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Here even a giant among men would have sufficient legroom and enough space to wiggle, shuffle and lean back and forth without annoying his gargantuan pals. The Alamo also provides ample space for servers to walk, crouch and bend, so if you need to escape mid-movie, you never bump knees, stomp toes or whack someone in the face with your oversized posterior. The tables provide plenty of room for concessions, and the seats are easy on both your back and your butt.

Could a chocolate-chip cookie save the world? Until you bite into the warm, crispy exterior and molten inner gooeyness of the cookies at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, hold your bets. Even home-baked cookies taste stale compared to these. Beyond the cookies, the Alamo offers melted butter — real butter — drizzled over popcorn that is served up in silver bowls, and burgers with patties charred to perfection on buns that caress your mouth and come with a panoply of toppings: prosciutto, goat cheese, pesto and Hatch green chile, to name just a few. There's also a hefty list of adult milkshakes, such as the Grasshopper Shake, with crème de cacao, crème de menthe and vanilla ice cream, as well as standard-fare cocktails and a long list of craft beers. If you're looking to pack dinner, drinks and a movie into one unforgettable binge, get to the Alamo Drafthouse, now.

Denver has killer blockbuster multiplexes and a few arthouse-chain theaters, but none of those corporate programming teams can compete with our hometown curators at the Denver Film Society. As a nonprofit, DFS has multiple funding streams that allow the Sie FilmCenter to show movies no other venue could. Last year, when the crown was passed from former programming manager Keith Garcia to Ernie Quiroz, Denver cineastes held their breath. Would the newbie build on Garcia's legacy? He has. Whether you want to scream and giggle through an '80s horror flick, scratch your head through an experimental documentary, analyze porn with an academic or meet some of the most innovative filmmakers of our age for a post-screening cocktail in the intimate Henderson's Lounge, the Sie has programming for you.

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Last fall, the Denver Art Museum bundled three related shows — Court to Cafe, Drawing Room and Nature as Muse — as a unified blockbuster called Passport to Paris. Like previous blockbusters at the DAM, Passport to Paris attracted huge crowds who drove up ticket sales, membership rolls and gift-shop receipts. This kind of successful audience-building is the culmination of a dream of former director Lewis Sharp. But it was his successor, Christoph Heinrich, who carried it out. Using his wits and sensibilities rather than stats and charts, Heinrich figured out the formula for getting attention by mounting blockbusters — or beacons, as he calls them. The next point of light: Modern Masters, which just opened.

Brandon Marshall

Former Nordstrom exec Chuck McGothlin has an impeccable eye honed during a career buying for the department store's Fifth Avenue boutique in New York, and his experience there clearly translates well at the beautifully upscale Denver Botanic Gardens gift shop. What makes this a must-see stop before or after any visit to the gardens (or even when you're just gift-shopping)? Brilliant merchandising — and a well-selected mixture of art, jewelry, repurposed materials, books, cards, pottery, plants and elegant home accents, along with many nature- and garden-oriented items. And with a much-awaited outdoor exhibit by glass artist Dale Chihuly coming to the DBG in June, the shop should be even more spectacular.

When the DIY Brass Tree House collective came to an end in 2012, the excellent Brass Tree Sessions series of live concert videos ended as well. But with their background in video and television production, the heads behind Brass Tree were able to team up with former Teletunes host and Pindowns member Heather Dalton, a producer on the arts program Out of Order, to produce Sounds on 29th. The program, which airs late on Saturday nights on Channel 12.2, features comedy sets alongside a handful of songs performed by local bands. Hosted by Sid Pink, Sounds on 29th is the less surreal — but no less entertaining — cousin of Dalton's other show, Late Night Denver.

Colorado has had a nice share of video cyphers from different hip-hop crews in the past couple of years. But most stay confined to their own group — or they add so many people that they lose the attention of their fans. Rarely does one video capture a careful cross-section of the hot artists of a given moment. But "Culture Over Currency Vol. 1" does just that, delivering some of the best talent the town has ever seen in one video: Squizzy Gang is well represented, with Trev Rich and AP, and Welcome to the Dope Game has Hustle Man and Turner Jackson. You'll also see appearances by Mr. Midas, F.L. of the Foodchain, and Koo Qua.

A lot of elements make up a great musical: a tuneful, clever libretto; fabulous singing and dancing; expensive tech. But The Full Monty, directed by Scott Beyette, wins hands down for pure heart, daring and soul — as well as talent and skill, of course. Set in Buffalo, the musical follows a group of desperate, out-of-work guys who decide to make some money and win back the respect of their wives by staging a strip show. They may not have impressive biceps, gorgeously defined abs or sinuous dance moves, they figure, but they do have the essential equipment. The terrific cast at Boulder's Dinner Theatre let it all hang out emotionally as well as physically, which took a lot of guts in a venue so small that audience members could reach out and touch flesh at any moment. It was a perfect choice of material when so many are facing hard times, executed with passion, intelligence and style.

Forget the dusty sonatas, stuffy tuxes and holier-than-thou cultural attitude. In the past year, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra has blown those tired classical-music clichés right out of the water. Instead, the organization has shown itself to be a dynamic and vital cultural force in the local arts scene, with a fresh group of collaborations and a renewed push to reach untapped audiences. That includes a string of impressive partnerships with pop, rock and folk musicians, including local indie-rock heroes like Nathaniel Rateliff, DeVotchKa and Gregory Alan Isakov. The CSO has also worked with different community organizations, ranging from the Jewish Community Center to the Denver Art Museum. The group's success in redefining the civic role of an orchestra is all the more impressive considering its stormy recent history. Three years ago, the CSO was cutting musicians' salaries and wrestling with its board of trustees as it faced a million-dollar budget shortfall. It took the innovation of new CEO Jerry Kern and his wife, Mary Rossick Kern, to turn the orchestra around, and the city is richer for it.

ZIP Gallery members Valerie Savarie and Karrie York lucked into a wonderful space when the Colorado Photographic Art Center vacated its Belmar digs for a more urban location; together they forged something new — an artist-run and -owned gallery and studio space that, while it partly adheres to the co-op model by having member artists, is something else entirely. Valkarie also offers wall space to guest artists — with an emphasis on local ones — while asking only a minimal percentage of their sales in return, so prices can remain reasonable and artwork more salable. For artists clamoring for more community and grassroots collaboration and less divisive wheeling and dealing, Valkarie has solutions. Ditto for collectors, who can only reap the benefits of more affordable work.

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