Best Arts Programming at a Bar 2019 | Fort Greene | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Courtesy of Fort Greene

Fort Greene's low-key brick exterior highlighted by an 0x000Aancient "Budweiser on tap" sign may not signal much from the outside — but crack open the door to this Globeville watering hole and you'll find the sights and sounds of a robust arts and music community. The bar's tiny set of expertly decorated rooms makes a big deal of Denver creatives, hosting album-release shows, dance nights and the occasional Selena-themed party/art show/costume contest. In a city where you can find a formulaic bar in almost every neighborhood, Fort Greene's dim lights, mini-stage and comfy couches create the perfect environment for creating true community.

Marilyn Megenity's Mercury Cafe has long been a haven for Denver's creatives, welcoming artists as patrons, employees and, of course, featured entertainers. The cavernous space has three rooms that are constantly being transformed by swing dance lessons, in-house theatrical productions, live music, witchy workshops and craft markets, movie screenings and more. Its website calendar (which is also conveniently printed out and hung in the establishment's bathroom stalls) is consistently jam-packed with both down-to-earth and out-of-this world events. This Mercury is always rising.

Programmer Keith Garcia has been bringing Denver into the cult-film fold for more than two decades, and his latest foray, Big Gay Matinee!, is nothing short of brilliant. With an intentional 1:30 p.m. Sunday time slot — sliding perfectly between drag-queen brunch events and Sunday evening beer busts — this afternoon movie snack brings sometimes obscure favorites out of the celluloid closet. Garcia gives educated and entertaining introductions to obvious classics like Valley of the Dolls and Auntie Mame, along with more nuanced picks such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge and Troop Beverly Hills. Each showing is preceded by an appearance from a local drag performer, ramping the camp up a notch as only Garcia can.

At between $19 and $20 a pop, a ticket to an IMAX show is steep. But the experience is totally worth the price of admission if you're watching a movie that deserves a larger-than-life screen. Not only is the IMAX screen at UA Colorado Center Stadium 9 so massive that it teeters on overwhelming, but it brings in the right films to maximize its size. (Free Solo, anyone?). If you're an IMAX newbie, we recommend opting for seats in the back of the theater so that your eyeballs don't explode. But if you like living on the edge, sit front and center to feel like you're part of all the action and adventure.

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.

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