In another sad example of fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the small chain that owns Aurora's Sonora Cinemas, formerly Cinema Latino, has declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy. While such ends are becoming all too common, this business had an unusual start: Jared Polis launched Cinema Latino in the early 2000s.
Polis sold the theater in 2008, but it continued to hold a special spot in his heart. In a tweet sent out on October 7, 2017, after the then-U.S. representative had declared for the 2018 gubernatorial race, Polis included the collage of photos above with a message that reads: "Great visiting Cinema Latino in Aurora, which I founded 15 years ago, and seeing it thrive."
"Young Blood," a 2004 Westword cover story, profiled Polis during a period when the Internet multi-millionaire was first edging toward a career in politics. At the time, he was splitting his time between managing a large portfolio of enterprises, including Cinema Latino, and serving on the Colorado Board of Education. When asked what he saw himself doing in the future, he said, "I might be starting a company. I might be starting new nonprofit schools. Or I might be the governor of Colorado."
That same year, Westword saluted Cinema Latino by way of an award in our Best of Denver issue. The item reads:
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That the metro area's Spanish-speaking Hispanic population continues to grow didn't escape local entrepreneur, state school-board member, politico and all-around rich guy Jared Polis. Seeing an untapped market, the man with the means opened Cinema Latino in the Aurora Plaza mall's former dollar theater. The eight-screen movie house features new Hollywood releases that are dubbed or subtitled in Spanish, and movie-goers munch on Mexican and Central American-style treats such as palomitas con salsa (popcorn with hot sauce). Polis hopes to eventually spread his vision to thirty or forty other cities. Que bueno!
The expansion of the Cinema Latino concept fell short of these ambitions. According to Business Den, Sonora Cinemas currently operates theaters in Aurora and Phoenix under the corporate banner, as well as branches still called Cinema Latino in two Texas cities, Fort Worth and Pasadena. The filing lists $689,268 owed to 75 creditors against assets valued at $154,360.
We've reached out to Polis's office to ask for a comment.
This post has been updated to note that Jared Polis sold Cinema Latino in 2008.