Young Blood

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The cost of this charade was upwards of $75,000, Rosen estimates, but Polis could certainly afford it, and the entertainment value of freaking out the Republican establishment may have made it worth the investment. For Polis, a good deal can pay off in something other than negotiable currency. "To a certain extent, it's ridiculous," he says, "but it's also fun when Republicans see everything as the arm of Jared Polis."

On a Saturday night in July, Polis is among the fun-seekers at Cinema Latino, the anchor for what he says is the nation's only Spanish-language chain of movie theaters. The operation is modest at this point -- he also owns theaters in Phoenix and Fort Worth, bringing his screen total to 24 -- but he hopes to open two more branches in new markets over the next year and expand from there.

The Aurora base is bustling on this evening, with hundreds of locals drawn to films such as Spiderman 2 and Catwoman, presented in either dubbed or Spanish-subtitled variations. The building previously housed a second-run theater, but Polis paid to spiff it up, and he likes it to be kept scrupulously clean. A piece of popcorn that hits the carpeting near the concession stand lies there for less than fifteen seconds before an employee sweeps it up. That pleases Polis, as does the spotless condition of the restrooms.

He keeps just as close a watch on other aspects of Cinema Latino's business. In an office upstairs, across a hallway from projectors lazily spooling out enormous loops of celluloid, he shows off a computer that tracks each snack or beverage purchase in real time. (Among the theater's customers, Fanta far outsells Coca-Cola, and the most popular munchies are manufactured by the Bimbo Group, a food supplier in Mexico.) Across the room, a chart traces the theater's financial performance. Polis says the most popular diversions are animated movies -- Shrek 2 did well -- and action-adventure offerings, but nothing has compared to The Passion of the Christ. The demand to see Mel Gibson's gory chronicle of Jesus's final hours was so spectacular that staffers booked it on two screens in spite of having only one copy. After a portion of it was shown in one part of the house, it was moved to another projector and cranked up again.

Recounting this triumph, Polis beams -- but it doesn't take him long to get restless. He's got a lot of balls in the air, and if he doesn't keep juggling, all of them will hit the floor. "I don't know what I'll be doing in the future," he says, a reflection of Tobey Maguire kissing Kirsten Dunst flickering over his shoulder. "I like to plan a reasonable amount of time ahead of things, but I'm not one of these conniving politicians who have their whole life laid out for the next twenty years. If there are opportunities, I'll examine them and decide if I want to do them. I can be happy in the private sector, the non-profit sector or the public sector. Right now, I'm enjoying being in all three, and I'm sure I'll be doing exciting stuff in whichever one I'm in."

As he speaks, Polis has the faraway look that swept over him in April as he looked at his beloved baseball mitt and nearly got into that head-on collision with a minivan. "I might be starting a company," he goes on. "I might be starting new non-profit schools. Or" -- he allows himself the slightest glimmer of a smile -- "I might be the governor of Colorado."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts