The Denver metro area has some of the most movie screens per capita in the U.S., spanning 10 counties including Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, Thornton, Greenwood Village, Littleton, Castle Rock, Englewood, Golden and more. Dinner and a movie may still be standard date night procedure, but I certainly demand more than a happy hour sampler platter at Chili’s followed by a megaplex offering 24 screens of nothing I want to see. Damn right: I’m a spoiled moviegoing snob and I don’t want to be subjected to a soda-sticky floor and yammering teenagers.
So for those of you uninitiated or new to Denver metro area’s film scene, I’ve paired the best movie theaters in town with a few of my favorite eats within walking distance of the theaters.
The Sie FilmCenter – denverfilm.org 2510 East Colfax, Denver, CO 80206
Home of the Denver Film Society and annual Starz Denver Film Festival, among many great events. The recently renamed Sie FilmCenter (formerly Denver Film Center/Colfax) has been my movie house of worship, as I featured in filmschoolrejects.com. There is trusted and eclectic programming unlikely to be seen anywhere else in town. 3 screens host foreign, documentary and independent releases, as well as classic and repertoire selections, in digital and 35mm projection. The theater’s Henderson’s lounge is a classy compliment.
This recently gentrified portion of Colfax has access to several restaurants, but in walking distance from the theater, I’d recommend Udi’s Pizza Café Bar right next-door, adjoining the Tattered Cover Bookstore or just west of the FilmCenter on Colfax – Okinawa Sushi.
Landmark Esquire Theatre- landmarktheatres.com 590 Downing Street, Denver, CO 80218
In dire need of an upgrade, this neighborhood staple still packs character and screens independent, foreign and documentary films, including the Midnight Madness weekly movies series. A big (70mm-capable) screen sits below 2 smaller screens upstairs. While the big room is a treat for that larger than life experience, the lack of stadium seating may put someone’s big head in view if it’s a packed house.
There’s no booze served in the theater, but plenty of bars along 6th Avenue. In walking distance are 2 pizza restaurants, Angelo’s Pizza and right across the street from the theater is Campagna Pizzeria. Table 6 is an upscale bistro nearby and I’ve found consistent satisfaction at Uoki off of 6th in their Korean and Japanese offerings.
Landmark Mayan Theatre – landmarktheatres.com 110 Broadway, Denver, CO 80203
One of the last Art Deco theatres in the country, this gem of the Baker neighborhood off Broadway offers a similar set up as the Esquire Theatre, but adorned with the most character of any Denver movie house. There is a bar upstairs and additional to Landmark’s independent programming, they host regular series of classic cinema.
Broadway is lined with great restaurants and bars all within walking distance of the Mayan, but my favorites include The Hornet’s varied menu, the Asian fusion of Spicy Basil and for an elegant treat when you’re looking to impress – Beatrice and Woodsley.
Landmark Chez Artiste – landmarktheatres.com 4150 East Amherst Ave., Denver, CO 80222
Yet another Denver art house scooped up by Landmark, the Chez Artiste recently underwent a facelift, with a refurbished lobby, digital projection and new comfy seats. They offer Landmark’s independent offering of foreign, documentary and art house selections.
Settled in the pseudo – suburban University Hills neighborhood off Colorado Blvd., the best restaurant in walking distance from the theater is actually my favorite Indian joint in town: India Oven. It’s located just a few hops down the strip mall from the theater.
Landmark Greenwood Village – landmarktheatres.com 5415 Landmark Place, Greenwood Village, CO 80111
Located in a somewhat newer Entertainment district near the Denver Tech Center, it’s a suburban oasis of dining, comedy clubs, bars and of course the best deal in town for independent moviegoing. A $12 ticket gets you unlimited free popcorn and soda. For a slight price hike, you can get reserved V.I.P seating that gets you table service before the movie starts. There is a bar inside the lobby, but gourmet snacks aside, I’d skip the menu and opt for any number of dining choices in walking distance.
Of the numerous restaurants packed in this swanky complex, my favorites are Hapa Sushi, Yanni’s Greek Tavern and a Ted’s Montana Grill.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – drafthouse.com 7301 Santa Fe Dr., Littleton, CO 80120
The Denver Metro area’s newest edition really hits the mother lode, and brings Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse culture to Littleton, with new locations slotted to open in Denver as well. 7 screens of mixed programming from classic, first run releases, independent fare and outrageously fun special events, this is a date night experience. A full course food and drinks menu is efficiently served throughout the film’s duration, offering local ingredients, and 32 local craft beers. The strict no talking – no texting policy make the Drafthouse a go-to safe haven from the throngs of babbling idiots who typically liter movie theaters. They also offer the only other 35mm projection in the metro area next to the Denver Film Society’s Sie FilmCenter.
To keep update on Denver area screenings and events, check milehighcinema.com, which provides daily coverage of the Sie FilmCenter, the Landmark Theatres and the Alamo Drafthouse Littleton.