Denver Movie Theaters: The Glory Years

[between 1913 and 1919?] Curtis Street at night

Curtis Street at night
In the days before cable television, Netflix, and Blockbuster (RIP), there was only one way to see a motion picture and that was to see it at an actual movie theater. Back then, a trip to the movie theater was a relatively affordable form of entertainment, but the entertainment was anything but cheap. 
That golden era of movie theater programming and architecture is captured perfectly in a wonderful book we ran across recently, titled, The Flick and I, by Ralph J. Batschelet. Mr. Batschelet spent the bulk of his professional life managing a string of iconic Denver movie theaters including the Bluebird, Paramount, and Mayan.  
If you never had the pleasure of visiting a movie theater in the pre-cable days, it’s safe to say that it was a very different experience than visiting a multiplex today. In fact, all you need to know about that era comes from the subtitle of Batschelet’s book, “The heyday of the movies when the theaters were palaces and the manager was king.”
Thanks to an incredible amount of competition (Denver once boasted as many as 66 movie theaters) movie managers of Batschelet’s era were expected to put on a show themselves in an attempt to draw customers. This showmanship included everything from giving away live cats to promote the Disney picture, “That Darned Cat,” to handing out bags of groceries to customers during the hard times of the Great Depression. 
One particularly intriguing, but completely unsubstantiated, nugget from The Flick and I is the suggestion that Denver’s Paramount Theater was one of the first movie theaters in the country to serve buttered popcorn.
According to Batschelet, buttered popcorn wasn’t served in theaters prior to 1944 because theater owners were worried that the butter would stain their customers’ clothing. Batschelet and his crew at the Paramount boldly broke through this perceived barrier by ladling creamy butter on popcorn without reservation. Their experiment was so successful that buttered popcorn became standard movie fare throughout the world. 
The glory days of Denver’s movie palaces are long gone, but anyone who wants to relive those days should definitely take a look at some of the materials we’ve collected at the Western History and Genealogy Department including:
Easy Come, Easy Go, or, LeRoy Hafen’s Afternoon at the Movies by Clark Secrest​
Our Show Houses: A History of Movie Theaters in Grand Island, Nebraska by John Sorenson
Left in the Dark, Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theaters by R.A. McBride
NOTE: Longtime Denver residents might find the title of Batschelet’s book a bit confusing because there was once a movie theater called “The Flick” at Larimer Square. Despite its title, this book has nothing to do with that particular movie house. In fact, the Larimer Flick doesn’t even rate a mention in the The Flick and I. 

Research NewsWHGBuilding HistoryMovie TheatersPhoto Gallery: 

16th Street illumination

Curtis Street at night
[between 1913 and 1919?]

Curtis Street, Denver
[between 1910 and 1920?]

Curtis Street, night views

Isis Theater

Isis Theater sign
[between 1920 and 1930?]

Moving picture row, Curtis St., Denver

Blue Bird Theater

Denver Theaters Fox Mayan 110 Broadway
1931 June 30

Paramount Theater

Paramount Theater
1937 December 24

Paramount Theater
1956 August 18

Paramount Theatre Denver, Colorado a furnishing detail from the balcony foyer
[between 1920 and 1930?]

Victory Theater

Ogden Theater Denver on Colfax Ave.

Ogden Theater, Denver
ca. 2000

Mayan Theater

Mayan Theater, Denver
1987 April

Denver Movie Theaters: A Look Back