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Colorado’s Drive-Ins & Movie Screening Experiences | Summer Movies


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There has been serious concern in the film industry around the “death of cinema” for decades. The concern existed long before Netflix dropped red boxes on every corner and streaming services started popping up left and right; it worsened as traditional cinemas were forced to work around COVID restrictions. This summer one of the best ways to get out of the house, and stay COVID-safe, is the drive-in theater. It can be a family activity, a night out with friends, or a date night.

Reminder that we’re not at the necessary vaccination rate for the national population to have herd immunity, kids still can’t get the shot, and many are unable to get it, so yes, we think you should continue to be safe.

Drive-In Theaters

Drive-in theaters are unique in that they nearly died out. Their heyday was back in the 1950’s and 60’s and now very few are left. The ones that do remain are typically struggling to make ends meet. Nevertheless, they offer double or even triple features for less than the cost of a standard movie theater ticket. They have snack bars that they encourage people to visit because that is where they generate most of their revenue, which they need to remain open. Currently, there are six permanent drive-in theaters remaining in Colorado.

Located in Commerce City, 88 Drive-In is the last original drive-in left in the Denver metro area. This drive-in has been around since 1972 and family-owned since 1976. They screen triple features for $10 and children (under 12) are free. The building that houses the snack bar and projector has the Batman logo painted on the side, just one of the little things that adds to the place’s overall charm. In addition to their large selection of food options at the snack bar, they also offer t-shirts and light up toys. What kiddo wouldn’t love a souvenir? Even if they fall asleep part way through the movie.

Fort Collins is home to the Holiday Twin Drive-In Theater, which has not one but two screens to play features on. Each screen offers different features to choose from. One screen is typically more child friendly while the other is for adults. They only charge $9 for adults and $6 for children (aged six to nine) and seniors (65 and up). While all of the drive-ins have Facebook pages, Holiday Twin also has an Instagram and a Twitter so you don’t miss any updates.

Tru Vu in Delta is partnered with Egyptian Theaters, a traditional cinema. They charge $8.50 per vehicle with an additional $3 fee per person in the vehicle. The additional fee can then be redeemed at the snack bar.

The Star Drive-In is located in Montrose and boasts the lowest prices of all the drive-ins at just $8.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors (60 and over), and children (11 and under) are free. This drive-in has been family-owned for 72 years and their mantra is, “See the stars, under the stars, at the Star.”

Mesa Drive-In in Pueblo goes all out with three screens playing different films. Adults are $10, children (12 and under) are free, and seniors (62 plus) are $7.00. Unlike most of the other drive-ins, Mesa has yet to open this year or announce an expected opening date.

Comanche Drive-In is in Buena Vista. $10 for adults, $5 for children (5-12), and free for small children (5 and under). At this drive-in, concert recordings are screened as well as movies.

Pop Up Drive-Ins

The Dairy Arts Center in Boulder is offering a popular new iteration of the outdoor drive-in. They will be regularly hosting pop-up screening events throughout the summer. Unlike the permanent commercial drive-ins that play mainstream Hollywood offerings, the Dairy will screen experimental films for all the art nerd cinephile, indie lovers. The cost to attend is $25 and tickets must be purchased in advance, but these are films you are unlikely to come across anywhere else.

COVID-weary attendees can rest assured, the Dairy Arts Center started their drive-in events as a response to COVID and designed their safety requirements during the height of restrictions.

Film on the Rocks is in Morrison in the lower parking lot of the legendary Red Rocks amphitheater. The price is $59.50 per car, but Coca-Cola, popcorn, and candy are included. They will be showing old favorites throughout the summer. Think of the most amazing outdoor movie experience ever, then make it cooler by throwing Red Rocks and the gorgeousness of the area – including Colorado skies – up all around you.

Snack while waiting for movie. Photo: Ashley Kay Mauer

Food and Flick Fridays in Firestone is not only fun to say five times fast, but fun to attend. At this venue, the party starts at 6:30 with food trucks, activities, and games until dusk when the screening begins. This event takes place on the third Friday of the month. There will be a drive-in screening on September 17 of “Ferris Buller’s Day Off.” In the months before then, the screening is “movie in the park” style. Bring blankets, folding chairs, and whatever else you need to make yourself comfortable in the park to see some old favorites for free.

Home Projectors and Projector Rentals

For even more privacy and the ability to screen a movie of your choice, projectors are available for purchase or rental. There are many projector options depending on your budget, indoor vs outdoor viewing, and image size and quality. Our editor has one in his bedroom – fancy guy – and he has friends that host outdoor flicks in their yards. Once, he recalls, he watched the Game of Thrones finale in the backyard with Ann Theis, former head of Open Media Denver, with friends and family.

Record-A-Hit is a company that rents out various attractions for private parties. One of the rental options is a 28 foot inflatable movie screen. They have people who set up the screen, the projector, and the sound system up for you, so no knowledge of how the equipment functions is necessary. They can be contacted via their website for a quote. They have a popcorn machine and supplies available, as well, so there’s no skimping out on the theater experience if you want to have a larger, yet still socially distanced, gathering.

Mike’s Camera offers projector and screen rentals as well. They have 50 and 70-foot screens to choose from and two different projectors. You can feel good about this purchase knowing you are supporting a small, locally owned business.

 

Final Thought

Movies with friends and families on the big screen is a sure way to enjoy a summer evening and keep cinema culture alive. How better to see a superhero film than with a breeze on your face? Or a romance under the stars? Colorado drive-ins can provide that and more may pop up as the summer progresses. 

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