Boulder gets third arts cinema screen


There once was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when people would leave their homes, congregate in vast, darkened rooms, with faces familiar and foreign, to stare at giant screens — screens that would transport them to fantastical places in time and space. Places where anything was possible and any story was viable. In short, they went to the movies.

While the movies never left, the screens dimmed and dwindled, and a few thought they might disappear completely. Yet, a few hung on and survived the lean years. Art houses in Boulder — the International Film Series and the Boedecker Theater — were kept alive by the theatrically devoted, and that devotion managed to save an industry. Now that industry is blossoming once again. It may not look like the magnificent flower that it once was, but the buds are beginning to bloom and beckon moviegoers to come out and play once more.

Starting Feb. 25, they’ll have another option to see first-run art house movies: the Boulder Arts Cinema. This is a joint venture between the Boulder Public Library and Downtown Boulder Inc. (DBI).

“We’re hoping there will be a sort of new mix of people who are going downtown to have dinner, and then come over for a film,” DBI’s Shelby Arnold says.

Arnold recently gave BW a tour of the newly renovated space — which includes the Seeds Library Cafe and plans for a beer and wine bar — explaining that the Boulder cinema project was already in the works when she joined DBI a year ago. Library Arts Director David Farnen and DBI Executive Producer Sean Maher clicked in their vision for a downtown arts cinema, one that would utilize the 200-seat Canyon Theater that the library owned. A space that, save for Joel Haertling’s Boulder Library Cinema Program, was largely unused.

“[Haertling’s] free cinema program at the library is not going away,” Arnold says. “We’re not trying to be competitors; we’re just trying to offer yet another opportunity to experience first-run films.”

BAC will program movies on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with two showings a day and typically one movie screening per weekend. Opening weekend is an anomaly as the Oscar-nominated Trumbo, Amy and The Danish Girl will screen in honor of the Academy Award ceremony on Sunday. After BAC’s opening weekend at the Oscars, the Boulder International Film Festival takes over the space with screenings on March 4-5.

While there is bound to be overlap between BAC, IFS and the Boe’s programming, Arnold is quick to point out that BAC’s single screen is not designed to compete but to complement.

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Arnold says. “The more we can get people excited about physically going to a cinema, the better for everyone.”

And even though BAC hasn’t yet opened, Arnold is already hearing good news from the community.

“I’ve gotten a flood of people who want to be involved as volunteers,” Arnold says. “There is a group of people [out there] who really want to participate.”

And starting on Feb. 25, they can both participate and patronize Boulder’s newest first-run arts cinema. Tickets start at $9 and can be purchased online at, or at the box office on 1001 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder.

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