The Holiday Theater comes back to life. A long-term lease, in particular, at below-market rates, to support its newest tenant: Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which begins its official residence in the historic Northside movie space with an opening night Thursday, April 7.
The 400-seat venue on West 32nd Avenue was dubbed The Egyptian when it opened in 1926, reflecting the public’s love of all things Egyptian after the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb. But by 1953 the zeitgeist and the Northside neighborhood had changed, and the name was changed to the Holiday Theatre. It was the first in Colorado to release films in Spanish in the 1960s and continued to do so into the 80s when it closed as a commercial enterprise after becoming a fond cinematic memory for many. many Northsiders in previous decades.
After it closed as a theatre, the space has been used for many things: a restaurant, a shop and, most recently, a place of worship for the Highlands Church, which moved in 2020. The space was at empty again, and again at risk of being lost in the ages.
“When creative minds come together, some really cool creative projects can emerge,” says Nora Burnett Abrams, director of Mark G. Falcone of MCA Denver. “When the property became available, we were unable to acquire it. We were still in the depths of the pandemic, and the timing wouldn’t have worked because everything was going fast. »
Point to the entry of the Denver Cultural Property Trust, a philanthropic brainchild of MCA Board Member Mark Falcone, and Continuum Partners LLC, a new organization dedicated to saving Denver’s landmarks from the city’s rapid development that engulfs it. surrounds, especially in Highland. The not-for-profit entity was able to purchase the property for $5.1 million, which included not only the vacation, but also apartments above the site and commercial space next to it. The MCA signed a long-term lease at the Holiday at below-market rates — as part of that philanthropic plan — for just over a third of the 18,000 square feet of space.
The MCA has previously presented events at the theater and will now expand programming. The holiday will be a “hub for the arts,” with the “aim of delivering unique creative experiences for the public that spark curiosity, challenge convention, inspire and delight,” according to the MCA website.
“We’re really excited to kick off our initiatives,” says Abrams, “and really kicking off collaborative projects and seeing where they grow.”
The idea of using the Holiday and “being in a very different space from our downtown building was very intentional,” Abrams continues. “We see life as a sort of decentralized museum. We live in the cloud, we live downtown, and now we’re going to live at the Holiday. Each of these environments brings new opportunities and possibilities.
A significant amount of original detail remains from the ancient decor of the Egyptian theatre, uncovered by restoration work in the early 2000s. Workers at the time found decorated alcoves and plasterwork hidden by renovations in the 1950s, and thus preserved over the decades. Abrams says the MCA is committed to respecting and celebrating this history.
“We take a very low-key approach,” she says of the renovations. Aside from upgrades to AV systems and paint here and there, the space will be protected for what it was and what it can be again. “The intention is to keep the story as visible as possible so that we can re-engage with it. We really want to bring that story to the present.
Two of the first three scheduled events are already sold out: The Holiday Theater’s opening night will take place on Thursday, April 7 and will include performances by Grupo Tlaloc Danza Azteca, Colorado Poet Laureate Bobby LeFebre, the neighboring North High School Jazz Band , by Cleo Parker. Robinson Dance, poet Eleanor Perry Smith, and more. On Friday, April 8, the venue comes alive with a concert featuring Chicano Batman and Los Mocochetes, as well as an after-party with DJ Lengua (aka exhibiting artist Eamon Ore-Giron).
The Bill Frisell Trio will perform at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12. Grammy Award-winning guitarist Bill Frisell has been called “the most important and innovative presenter of jazz guitar of his generation” by the Atlantic; he will play with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston. Tickets are $40 and are still available.
Future programs include MCA’s fascinating and long-running dual feature “Mixed Taste,” which in the past has brought together such disparate elements as “Public Transportation & Polyamory,” “Incorrupt Saints & Hot Pockets,” and “Church Signs & Icelandic Hip-Hop”. as well as events featuring other artists and writers, and local organizations such as Lighthouse Writers Workshop.
Holiday Theater programs, installations and productions will be sold on the MCA website, and museum members will receive early access and discounts on programming.
The Holiday Theater is located at 2644 West 32nd Avenue. For more information, see the MCA/Holiday Theater website.