Archive | May, 2013

Historic Preservation Month Feature: Mountaineer Theater in Lake City

28 May

“Modern Cinema. Vintage Setting”

City: Lake City, CO
Population: 500
Year Built: 1974
Privately Owned


The Mountaineer Theater, located appropriately in the mountain town of Lake City, CO, is one of many in the state who is currently in the process of converting from 35mm film to the new industry standard digital projection. Yet this small-town for profit theater has managed to avoid the pitfall of closing their doors for good by undergoing a two year fundraising effort that has raised more than $120,000 through the contributions of a select group of individuals. They have temporarily closed during the fundraising process and plan to open up again this coming summer.

Built in 1974, the Mountaineer Theater began as a local destination to cater to a small population of prideful residents who valued the theater as one of their community’s great assets. In time, Lake City’s population expanded as out-of-state tourists began to flock toward the mountains, many of whom settled down there such as second-home owners and retirees. For a while, ticket sales remained steady but around the 1990’s theater owner Phillip Virden began to witness a decline. When the 2008 economic recession hit, ticket sale revenues had plummeted and the film industry’s demand for digital conversion was looming closer. Mr. Virden knew he needed to take action, but without historic status for tax credits and digital projector prices still high, the task would be very difficult. But by 2010, projector prices began to dip and Mr. Virden took the opportunity to seek out funds.


Initial fundraising efforts were sought through a coalition called Cinema Pine Group, a subset of the National Association of Theater Owners. Yet after several weeks, the financial agreement dissolved and a new partner was needed. Mr. Virden found it in Gunnison Private Savings and Loans who became the major financier by helping to create an equitable financial package. In the end, they helped raise over $70,000 for the theater. Other sources included individual private donors who contributed small amounts that totaled over $1,500 and Phillip Virden himself, along with his wife, who raised over $50,000.


Though no direct community partnerships were formed during the process, Mr. Virden hopes to build them during future efforts to raise an additional $25,000 that will be used to restore the theater’s interior seating and box office. Some ideas include working with the Downtown Lake City district to create business incentives such as “dinner and a movie”, hosting classic movie nights in agreement with licensed film production studio companies, and partnering with the Art Council of Lake City to host a future film festival.  The theater plans to open this summer and The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp was filmed 60 miles west of Lake City and may possibly be the opening movie.

For more information visit:


Historic Preservation Month Feature: Cliff Theater in Wray

20 May


City: Wray, CO

Population: 2,300

Historic Structure: Yes, Colorado State Historic Registrar

Year Built: 1950

Public Non Profit: Cliff Cultural Community Center Inc.


The Cliff Theater was originally built in 1950 in a small town of 2,300 people in Northeast Colorado. For the last 60 years, this theater has stood as a landmark for the community in Wray, but in 2007 the owner realized that the theater was in jeopardy. The solution was to create a community center with 501c3 designation. The original board received a $25,000 financial commitment from a local trust for three years to get the Cliff Cultural Community Center Inc. up and running. They changed the business model and become a public non-profit, only to be jeopardized again five years later. In the fall of 2012 they learned that the movie industry would be going digital and they would have to do the same to survive.


In total it took about 14 months to gather enough money to fund a new digital projector. Three major donors, El Pomar, Gates Family and Kitzmiller Bales and Powell Trusts, contributed $85,000, and the Cliff Theater was able to raise another $45,000 through about two-dozen community fundraising events. These efforts were all small fundraisers like bake sales, donation buckets, silent auctions and letters.

Since May 2012 the theater has been run strictly by board members and volunteers. The community really rallied around the Cliff Theater because they understood that without the theater there were few options for family and youth to be entertained, without traveling more than 40 miles.


The Cliff Theater is not just a movie theater, but also a community center for Wray and Yuma. The Theater hosts events ranging from dance classes, youth group meetings, to birthday parties, and music shows.

Cliff Theater’s next steps are to further diversity the theater’s current programs by exploring licensing options for showing classic movies, developing the center as a live music venue, reinstating a children’s movie summer program, and adding programming from a digital broadcast network provider to show events like concerts and sports events.

For more information visit:

Historic Preservation Month Feature: Kress Cinema & Lounge in Greeley

13 May

Go Digital or Be Left Behind!
(Kickstarter Project Motto)

City: Greeley, CO
Population: 96,962
Historic Structure: Originally the Kress Department Store:
Year Built: 1920. Renovated in 2007 for theater.
Privately Owned

KressThe Kress Cinema & Lounge is a privately owned theater in historic downtown Greeley located within the historically renovated Kress Building that recently faced challenges imposed by Hollywood’s digital requirements.  The highly decorated, art deco department store was originally built in 1920 and with the historic preservation passion of the Thompsons, was renovated into a theater in 2007.  As a contributing structure to the Historic Downtown Greeley, the Thompsons saved everything they could, including the ceilings, floors and columns.

Shortly after the opening in 2008 the theater was faced with the challenges from Hollywood and digital movie production.  Unfortunately, at the start of the renovation work the standards set by digital movies were not clear and the theater did not conform to the new changes.  The theater needed to convert fully to digital technology by 2013, which is when Hollywood will no longer be producing 35mm film movies.   The Thompsons turned to the community and the Kickstarter program for help, as they feared they would be closing the theater in 2013.


In 2012 the theater launched a Kickstarter program after seeing the success from the Lyric Cinema Café in Fort Collins.  The Kickstarter program brought the community involvement to the forefront of the theater’s survival.  As the only independent movie theater in Greeley and a valued business, it was important to the community to work together to raise the money.  A goal of the Kickstarter was to not only upgrade to the digital technology but to show that this was an investment in the community.

Through varying incentives and donor memberships, the theater exceeded their goal of $80,000.  Partnerships with the Chamber of Commerce, DD Authorities, local newspapers, and social media also played a role in the fundraising success.  The Kress Cinema has successfully converted to digital technology and meets the standards set by Hollywood.  The theater recognizes the importance of the community and is available for parties, weddings, receptions, business meetings, live comedy, community forums, fundraisers and weekly local music.  With a restaurant and bar within the theater there are more events available and the ability for several events to be held simultaneously.

Check out the Kickstarter Website:


The Kress Cinema intends to support and work with the community and partner with nearby businesses to integrate events and activities within Greeley.  Additional money raised will be used to purchase spare parts, repair furniture and to upgrade the kitchen equipment.  The theater offers a memorable experience for their guests with a full-service restaurant and bar, intimate Art Deco lounges and a newly converted digital theater.

For more information visit:

Historic Preservation Month Feature: The Grand Theater in Rocky Ford

6 May


City: Rocky Ford, CO

Population: 4,000

Historic Structure: Yes, Colorado State Historic Registrar

Year Built: Originally built in 1908, rebuilt after a fire in 1935.

Public Non-profit: Grand Friends

Grand Theater 1The Grand Theater has a tenuous past, but has been able to flourish over the past 20 years with the continued support of a dedicated community.  After many years of abandonment and vandalism the City of Rocky Ford finally bought the building in 1991 and appointed a Rocky Ford Arts Commission to manage it. Even in an economically depressed area, the community came together and decided to open it back up to create a place for all ages to gather, and funding s
Five years ago, the Grand Theater received information from their booking agent about the inevitability of a digital conversion. They were encouraged to join the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) to stay informed and possibly get equipment cheaper. They did join the group but were able to fundraise and buy their equipment without NATO’s help.ources became available once they gained a spot on the Colorado State Historic Registrar.

Grand Theater 2


The Grand Theater has a fundraising organization called the Grand Friends. With this organization and additional financial support from El Pomar Foundation, they were able to raise $85,000 to upgrade the facilities and buy digital equipment. Much of the Rocky Ford community either supports the theater financially or volunteers their time. Community groups volunteer at the theater on a rotating basis and their names are published in the newspaper every week.

The Grand Friends send out annual letters to solicit support from community members and businesses and tell them how the money has been used, such as renovation projects and the digital conversion. Other fundraising techniques included summer musicals and free events with suggested donations.



The Grand Theater is an important community space and one of the only businesses in downtown Rocky Ford. With both a stage and a movie screen, the theater can hosts live performances, student musicals, political meetings as well as events like “Movie Bowl Trivia” and talent shows. The Rocky Ford and La Junta communities keep this theater alive through continued support, and the Grand Theater hopes to continue to preserve the theater as a vital piece of this community.


For more information visit:

Photo source: