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Beyond Hollywood

From historic beauties to modern marvels, theaters are versatile venues

By Beth Buehler

Boulder Theater
Boulder Theater || Courtesy of Visit Boulder

Several of Colorado’s early theaters started out hosting vaudeville shows and later became movie houses and concert venues, while others were built more recently as part of larger community arts centers. Regardless of origin, theaters offer memorable options for groups and often have bonus spaces like lobbies, classrooms, patios, and rooftops.

Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC), one of the largest performing arts centers in the country, is a massive four-block, 12-acre site in the heart of downtown that is owned by the City and County of Denver. Its largest venues—Boettcher Concert Hall, Buell Theatre, and Ellie Caulkins Opera House—are managed by Denver Arts & Venues.

The complex’s largest theatrical tenant, nonprofit Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA), produces and presents Broadway tours, cabaret, plays, and more. “As the exclusive users of some DPAC venues, we have the option to rent the following theaters out when not in use: Kilstrom, Jones, Singleton, Wolf, and Weeks Conservatory Theatre. These range in seating capacity from around 200 to 630 seats,” explains Suzanne Yoe, director of communications and content at the organization.

Colorado Meetings + Events also looked at theaters within other arts complexes around the state as well as historic beauties that are available for private rentals.

Spacious Arts Centers
Elsewhere in the Denver metropolitan area, Lone Tree Arts Center in Lone Tree was built in 2011 and has several spaces to host groups including Main Stage Theater, which is the largest and seats 480 people. The Event Hall has a glass wall that opens outside to the Terrace Theater, which holds up to 350.

In Parker, the Parker Arts, Culture & Events Center’s Mainstage Theater seats up to 534 and features the latest in sound, lighting, and rigging as well as a dance floor. The center also has auxiliary spaces such as an event room, an art gallery, a patio, and smaller classrooms. Schoolhouse Theater at Mainstreet, a separate venue operated by Parker Arts, occupies a former schoolhouse that was built in 1915 and holds up to 200 attendees.

AEG Presents Rocky Mountains’ Ogden Theatre in the Denver area
AEG Presents Rocky Mountains’ Ogden Theatre in the Denver area || Courtesy of AEG Presents Rocky Mountains

A beautiful option in the mountains is Steddy Theater at Center for the Arts Crested Butte, which was part of a LEED-certified addition that opened in 2019. “The flexibility of the Steddy Theater was by design so that our community arts center would have the capability of accommodating many different types of events,” says Co-Executive Director Melissa Mason.

“We host over 135 large events [defined as 150 to 950-plus people] in our theater every year, and the various ways the theater can be configured directly allows for that,” she says. “In a flat-floor configuration, we can host a 250-person seated event like the center’s own gala or a 650-person general admission concert.”

Denver’s Gothic Theatre
Denver’s Gothic Theatre || Courtesy of AEG Presents Rocky Mountains

Historic Theaters Galore
From its beginnings as a silent movie theater in 1920 to its current role as a performing arts venue in Loveland, Rialto Theater still impresses. A historic renovation revitalized spectacular details such as the balcony, murals, and an original leaded-glass transom window in the lobby. Today, the City of Loveland owns Rialto Theater, which has 450 seats and hosts nationally touring acts, local performers, meetings, and events such as the annual Loveland Sweetheart Festival coordinated by Visit Loveland.

“The Rialto is the epicenter of the Sweetheart Festival and the absolute perfect venue for the Little Miss Valentine and Little Mr. Cupid contest as well as showcasing our nighttime headliner, Spinphony,” says Cindy Mackin, director of Visit Loveland. “Entering the theater lobby is like journeying back through time; the popcorn smell, period architecture, and comfy seating set the stage for a perfect evening.”

The Avalon Theatre in Grand Junction has a similar tale. Built in 1923, the entertainment venue had a storied run for many years. The City of Grand Junction took over the crumbling structure in 1996 and implemented a major renovation in 2014. The theater has 1,096 seats and is available for private events, along with the facility’s meeting space and rooftop terrace.

In Denver, Paramount Theatre opened in 1930. The interior remains an excellent example of zigzag art deco design that became popular during the Jazz Age. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 21,000-square-foot theater seats up to 1,865. Host a sit-down dinner on the stage, a keynote in the theater, a cocktail reception in the mezzanine lobby, or a small private event in the VIP Lounge.

Steddy Theater  at Center for the Arts Crested Butte
Steddy Theater at Center for the Arts Crested Butte || Photo by Nolan Blunck

Boulder-based Z2 Entertainment oversees Boulder Theater and Fox Theatre in Boulder and Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins. Boulder Theater, built in 1906, is especially suitable for events, whether a conference, concert, or movie screening for up to 1,000.

AEG Presents Rocky Mountains, the live entertainment division of Los Angeles-based AEG, manages three Denver theaters that are now concert and special event venues. Bluebird Theater, the oldest, opened in 1913 and first served as a vaudeville theater; it is now an intimate concert hall for up to 500. The circa-1921 Gothic Theatre has an even higher capacity with 1,050 seats. Built in 1918, Ogden Theatre is the largest of the trio—accommodating up to 1,600—and has hosted performers ranging from Harry Houdini to Jackson Browne to The Smashing Pumpkins.

“These theaters all feature a great stage as well as world-class sound and lighting systems offered as a part of the rental,” says Jennifer Robinson, director of special events at Denver venues for AEG Presents Rocky Mountains. “This saves significant budget allocation for production and really takes the event to the next level.”

Bluebird Theater in Denver
Bluebird Theater in Denver || Courtesy of AEG Presents Rocky Mountains

Pepper’s Senior Dog Sanctuary in Denver hosted a Mutts & Models fundraiser at Ogden Theatre, which easily accommodated a runway fashion show and silent and live auctions. Several sponsors of the ETHDenver 2024 cryptocurrency convention held daytime educational panels and an evening reception at Bluebird Theater.

“People associate theater venues with enjoyable outings and recall some of the best shows they have seen when they come into the space,” Robinson says. “The uniqueness makes the event very memorable, rather than a basic ballroom that could be in any city.”