It’s 1891. Women have started the suffrage movement, millions of immigrants are on their way to Ellis Island, national railroads are beginning to urbanize western cities and the light bulb is still a relatively new invention by Thomas Edison.

This is the same year that Mary Elitch, the first female zookeeper and the first woman to run a botanic gardens, also became one of the first women to own a theater in the United States after her husband John died when traveling to San Francisco shortly after the theater’s opening. At only 34, she was a widow with the task of managing the theater’s school of drama, art and dance where children could explore their talents.

Historic Elitch Theatre via Facebook.

Elitch Gardens, known for its amusement and water park today downtown, actually owes its name to the woman who began a prestigious theatre that would garner Broadway talent (one local actress was Antoinette Perry, for which the Tony Awards are named!) and host the screening of Colorado’s first moving picture film in 1896.

The Elitch Theatre entertained guests with musical and play performances as well as movie screenings until its last production in 1991, and then in 2002, a group of concerned locals created the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre Foundation, a non-profit created to help restore the theater and create sustainable programming.

Historic Elitch Theatre Summer Film via Facebook.

Thus, the theatre was reopened. But there’s still a lot of work to do in making sure this iconic Denver landmark stays open. How can you help save a piece of history? Easy — just go see a movie.

In the summer, the theater is popular for its picturesque outdoor movie screenings under the night sky in the quieter part of West Highland, but the Elitch also hosts indoor movie screenings, plays and live music with the low-priced ticket admissions of typically $5 used to keep the theatre up and running.

The Historic Elitch Theatre. Photo Courtesy of Historic Elitch Theatre Facebook.

Here’s what’s in store for summer 2017. You can purchase tickets here or simply make a donation online to show your support.

Where: 4655 W. 37th Ave., Denver
Ticket Price: $5 admission, kids 6 and under are free


Friday, June 16 at 7 p.m. – STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Four virtual reality stations will run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. allowing ticket holders a three-minute VR experience for free. Non ticket-holders will pay $10 per person.
Saturday, June 17 at 2 p.m. – SING. Sing-a-long from 1:30 to 2:00 p.m. Ice cream social on the lawn provided by Little Man Ice Cream at 3:30 p.m. 


Time: Pre-movie entertainment starts at 6:30 p.m. Movies start at dusk.

Friday, June 30 – LA LA LAND with musical guests MSquared and Terri Jo Jenkins
Saturday, July 1 – SUNNYSIDE MUSIC FESTIVAL PROMO CONCERT with Sunnyside All-Star Band
Friday, July 14 – THE PRINCESS BRIDE with musical performance 300 Days and interactive fencing by the Denver Fencing Center
Friday, July 28 – E.T. with a special Kids Zone
Friday, August 11– FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM with magician Mitch Harwood and Nature’s Educators’ Raptor Show
Friday, August 25 – DIRTY DANCING with music and dancing in the carousel
*FREE Saturday, August 26 – E.T. FEST — A CULTURAL REVIVAL with Sunnyside Music Festival and BlissFest333. Artisan fair from noon to 6 p.m. and a concert by FACE, Chris Daniels and the Kings and the Hazel Miller Band from 7 to 9:30 p.m.