Best Artful Art House 2019 | Mayan Theatre | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Watching a movie at the Mayan Theatre is like taking a trip back in time. Between the faux Mayan iconography — heads seemingly severed from Mexican stone totems— that decorates the three theaters, the seats that feel oh-so-quaint (read: mildly uncomfortable) and the bar stocked with Colorado craft beer and other boozy treats, you're not sure exactly what city you're in. Or what century. But that's what makes this weird, wonderful movie theater so much fun. In a town that seems to love trashing its past, the Mayan has maintained its 1930s art-deco glory since the Prohibition days. Take a seat and take it all in.

Alamo Drafthouse

There's nothing new about dinner and a movie. But what the Alamo Drafthouse practically revolutionized is combining both, so that you never have to rush through a meal to make a movie or starve through a two-hour flick before dinner. And this menu is the reel deal, offering a variety of "snacks" that include everything from loaded fries to chicken and ricotta meatballs, gourmet pizzas, creative salads, hot dogs, and sandwiches that offer a nod to cinema history, like the Royale With Cheese. The beer, wine and cocktail menu is just as elaborate, and the Drafthouse 0x000Aregularly rolls out thematic menus based on the movies it's showing. Sit back, relax and just remember to chew with your mouth closed.

Readers' Choice: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

In many respects, the AMC Highlands Ranch 24 is a typical multiplex, albeit an upgraded one. While seats in most of the theaters at this complex are large and recline into the equivalent of a fainting couch, the Dolby Cinema setup is even more posh. The chairs are cushiony creations covered with simulated black leather so luxurious that after sinking into one, you may never want to stand up again. And the acoustics are spectacular, as long as you stick to the center of the room. (Warning: Don't sit in the back row.) True, the ticket price for the average Dolby Cinema screening is close to $20, but the AMC Stubs program, a rival to the tail-spinning MoviePass app that allows buyers to attend three movies per week for a $19.99 monthly fee, also grants access to the theater's premium presentations, including Dolby Cinema. It's a cost-effective way to experience how the other half watches movies.

Readers' Choice: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

The rise of streaming services has only increased the homogeneity of mainstream theaters, which frequently devote the lion's share of their screens to the same big-budget blockbuster, leaving fewer opportunities than ever for quirkier or more personal cinematic efforts. But the Sie FilmCenter is truly keeping the tradition of independent theaters alive. In addition to highlighting critically acclaimed movies that commercial theaters increasingly ignore, the Sie programmers regularly cherry-pick excellent but underseen flicks culled from the annual Denver Film Festival, showcase classics in conjunction with the Tattered Cover bookstore, and promote themed events such as the Women+Film Festival, scheduled for April 9 through 14. It's all proof that you can chill without Netflix.

Readers' Choice: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Cinematographer Gio Toninelo's fascination with G.I. Joe inspired him to start the G.I. Joe Stop Motion Film Festival thirteen years ago. The festival screens all sorts of movies that use action figures to tell stories. Fun, right? But last year, Toninelo found himself duking it out with the toy manufacturer Hasbro, which threatened to sue him over the trademark to the festival's name. Undeterred, he renamed the Denver-based traveling event the Action Figure Stop Motion Film Festival, expanding the figurines that could be used in the movies (which he found to be a relief). The festival will be back in Denver this fall, and will then let other cities in on the action. G.I.O.: a real American hero.

Readers' Choice: Denver Film Festival

Even if you're not exactly a film fanatic, it's worth venturing off the mainstream movie-theater circuit a few times a year to see what kinds of movies are being made outside of Hollywood. For that, you can rely on the Denver Film Society, which shows a loaded program of indie, foreign and documentary films throughout the year and throws an excellent annual festival. Sweetening the deal is the Society's slate of memberships, which offer considerable value even for the casual movie-goer. All memberships get holders early access to tickets, occasional free screenings, discounts on concessions and happy-hour pricing on drinks at the Henderson Lounge in the Sie FilmCenter, where most DFS films are shown. And many of the memberships also include generous credit toward movie tickets, guest passes and cards for free popcorn and soda.

Best Place to See Talented Actors...Again and Again

Arvada Center

Matthew Gale Photography
The Diary of Anne Frank at the Arvada Center.

Every year, the Arvada Center's Black Box Theater repertory company selects a group of top-flight actors for the season. These performers get several weeks of paid work, challenging roles in a never-predictable roster of plays that range from classics to surprising premieres, and a chance to work with great directors and sophisticated tech people. As a result, artistic director Lynne Collins tends to have her pick of talent. While the performer lineup changes year to year, the standard is always high.

Courtesy Buntport Theater Facebook page

Once you've seen a Buntport Theater Company production, you'll want to see them all. You'll want to keep recapturing the sense that you're in on something weird, offbeat, charming, smart, friendly and very special. Buntport, which has never lost its freshness over two decades of shows, is the brainchild of five enormously talented, inventive and literate writers — four of whom also perform. They create their own work or reimagine the work of others so that it becomes unrecognizable. Or perhaps more deeply recognizable. If you haven't been to Buntport, you owe it to yourself to get there, ASAP. And if you've been trying to explain Denver's unique quirkiness and humor to out-of-town friends, take them, too.

For a long time, Boulder offered little for serious theater-goers — surprising for a town of painters, dancers, scientists and other brainiacs. That changed a dozen years ago, when husband-and-wife team Stephen Weitz and Rebecca Remaly founded the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. In the process, they brought serious theatrical professionalism to Boulder, and they've been mounting an eclectic mix of fascinating and mostly contemporary plays at the Dairy Arts Center ever since. The production you're seeing on any given night may be a disappointment or a revelation — or a twisty, clever, complicated mix of both — but we guarantee it will be worth your time.

Readers' Choice: Denver Center for the Performing Arts

There's a lot of good children's theater around town, but a visit to the BDT Stage's family-friendly summer offering should thrill any little one. To begin with, there's dinner, complete with a Shirley Temple and a kids' menu. Then there's the jovial, funny actor who introduces the show and will mention your child's name if you've booked a birthday bash. Finally, there's the colorful show itself, with all those exuberant comics, singers and dancers. And if the kids begin nodding off during this year's offering, Beauty and the Beast, they'll certainly bolt up, wide awake, at the chance to meet Beauty, the Beast, or perhaps the singing Candlestick at the end of the night.

Readers' Choice: Denver Center for the Performing Arts

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