By Erin Di Paolo
From opera to movies and disco to rock – during its brilliant and storied past, the colorful and historic Boulder Theater has seen it all. What has made this versatile and ever-changing entity persevere over the years? No doubt it has been adaptability and flexibility, but it has also had another key component in its favor – people.
From the beginning, it has been people – the people who have owned and managed the theater, the people who have attended the events, the people in the community – that have enabled the theater to grow and change, allowing itself to be transformed into what it is today – a classic, versatile, integral part of Boulder’s past, present, and future.
The theater opened in 1906 under the name of Curran Opera House, owned by wealthy billboard sign proprietor James Curran. At that time, the theater played host to opera, musical productions, and silent movies. With the birth of “talkies,” the venue saw its first transformation, making the change, along with the rest of the country, to the new form of entertainment. In 1927 “The Jazz Singer,” the first non-silent movie, was shown at the theater. After that, the location became solely a movie theater and functioned as such from 1927 to 1978. Even during the Depression the theater remained open, presenting double features and “Country Store Nights” when free groceries were awarded to those sitting in lucky-numbered seats.
The structure as it exists today was designed by Boiler of Kansas City and held its opening night on January 9, 1936. The construction included an expansion of the opera house and it was decorated in the art deco style popular at that time, complete with terra cotta, colored glass, and black glass tiles. The interior was painted with twenty-five foot murals on each side in green and blue hues and a western-themed mural on the ceiling in shades of orange. Before the opening a contest, sponsored by the local newspaper, was held to name the theater. The winning name was "The Boulder” and the winner received a one-year pass to the theater.
In 1981 the theater was transformed again. This time, the changes were made by Mountain Productions, and entailed turning the theater into a full-fledged, state-of-the-art concert hall. The theatre began to feature artists such as Bonnie Raitt, the Plasmatics, and Timothy Leary. Mountain Productions operated the theater for 15 months until it was forced to shut down because its movie-house style seating was not diverse enough to accommodate other activities.
After outcries from the community, the theater reopened in 1988 and became a multi-use hall featuring cabaret-style seating. During the renovation process, great effort was taken to ensure that the theater’s unique art deco touches, such as the hand-painted murals and fresco ceiling, were preserved.
In 1995 New Hope Communications purchased the theater, planning to operate it primarily as an entertainment venue while additionally bringing non-musical and community events there. Owner Doug Greene, along with eight managers, now operates the theater.
Recent appearances on stage at the Boulder Theatre have been national acts, such as, Tory Amos, Blues Traveler and Branford Marsalis. The theater is also now home to E-Town, the nationally-syndicated radio show. Because of its unique facilities, the theater, located at 2032 14th Street in downtown Boulder, also provides a venue for other diverse events ranging from corporate parties, meetings, and conferences to private parties and concerts.
events to be held at the theater during December 2006, include The Christmas
Revels and Rose Hill Drive. Events scheduled for January 2007, include Dixie
Dregs with the Steve Morse Band and the 10th Annual Boulder Wedding Showcase.
February will bring Joshua Nelson and the Second City Touring Company.
more information, visit www.bouldertheater.com