A guide to Colorado’s best drive-in movie theaters for 2023

With spring moisture steadily sowing green around Colorado, drive-in movie theaters have been polishing their projectors and raking their gravel lots for their annual cinematic gatherings. This weekend, they throw open the gates.

Significantly, these are not pop-up events or free, outdoor screening series on lawns. Those are wonderful — don’t get me wrong — as is Denver Film’s Film on the Rocks series.

But many that sprouted up during the pandemic have gone back underground. And anyway, there’s something special about seeing a movie outdoors from the inside the comfort of your vehicle (or camping chairs), with theater-quality projection and sound, surrounded by people having the same indoor/outdoor experience.

Of course, there are economic headwinds, as CEOs like to say when laying people off. This year, Minturn’s beloved Starlite Mountain Drive-In is taking the year off to focus on its Austin, Texas, operation, producers wrote on their website. “Please stay tuned because there is still the chance we will bring a few nights of Movies under the stars to Minturn mid-July in some form.”

The Denver Mart Drive-In has also been demolished, subject to new construction on the site of its eponymous, former convention-center neighbor.

In the meantime, here are a few ideas for drive-in movie venues to satisfy your warm-weather cinema needs. See denverpost.com/things-to-do/movies for more movie ideas, news and reviews.

Frontier Drive-Inn

This circa-1955 theater in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley reopened last year after nearly four decades of darkness, The Denver Post reported. The 2023 lineup isn’t posted, but that’s because the schedule for the weather-dependent screenings on its 80-foot screen are “circulated to guests after booking,” according to owners, given that Frontier is also a boutique lodging destination. It features Steelmaster sheds, “the architectural vernacular of our agricultural surroundings … converted to luxury accommodations,” owners said. Last year’s season included screenings Thursday through Saturday nights, from June to October. Located at 105 E. County Road 11 North, Center. frontierdriveinn.com

88 Drive-In Theater

The 47th season of Commerce City’s classic 88 Drive-In Theater kicks off with a blockbuster double bill featuring “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and “Dungeons & Dragons” — both of which lit up box offices this spring. The program, which runs now through May 18, complements the overall Thursday-Sunday schedule that will be rolled out in the coming weeks. And if you’re looking for value, note that kids 12 and under get in for free free. 8780 Rosemary St., Commerce City. 88drivein.net

Dive-in Movies at Elitch Gardens

OK, the “dive-in” part is corny, but we still like the idea of seeing movies at Elitch Gardens’ Island Kingdom Waterpark. After the rest of the waterpark closes at 6 p.m., people with existing admissions or season passes can line up for the 7:30 screenings in the wave pool (yes, the wave pool!). This year’s screenings include kid-friendly titles such as “The Incredibles” (June 23) and “Luca” (July 7). Daily admission: $50, or $75 for season passes. Children 2 and under are free. 2000 Elitch Circle, Denver. elitchgardens.com

Comanche Drive-In Theatre

This consistent favorite — and highest-elevated drive-in movie theater in the U.S. — typically has a smart mix of crowd-pleasers and cult films of all genres lined up, starting this year with “The Super Marios Bros. Movie,” with other titles to come. Movies start at dusk — roughly 8:15 p.m. — Fridays through Sundays and cost $12 for adults (cash; $15 credit cards), $5 for kids aged 6-12, and free for 5 and under. 27784 County Road 339, Buena Vista. comanchedrivein.com

Holiday Twin Drive-In

Fort Collins’ venerable Holiday Twin has two screens of kids titles, fantasy, sci-fi and horror lined up for its opening weekend, starting Friday, May 12 — see the attention-grabbing MCU flick “Guardians of the Galaxy 3” and the definitely-not-for-children “Evil Dead Rise.” Admission to the five-decade-old grounds, which can hold up to 700 cars total, is $9 per adult, and $6 for kids and seniors. 2206 South Overland Trail in Fort Collins. holidaytwin.com

Best Western Movie Manor

This venue is just what it sounds like — a hotel attached to a historic drive-in, “which means guests can watch movies on the big screen from the comfort of most rooms,” according to its website. The mid-May through mid-September movie season arrives with in-room tables and chairs designed for movie viewing, and a second drive-in screen that guests can visit for free (with hotel reservations, of course). “Hotel guests should call property in advance to verify movie schedule and season dates,” hotel operators wrote. Rooms start at $130 per night. 2830 US Highway 160 West, Monte Vista. bestwestern.com

Mesa Drive-In

The double-bills at this 1951 drive-in are mercifully affordable — $11 for adults, and $4 for kids 4-12 — and the titles are familiar but fun (see the dinosaur/sci-fi thriller “65,” which no other drive-ins seem to be showing). 2625 Santa Fe Drive in Pueblo. mesadrive-in.com

The Star Drive-In Theatre

The double bill of “Guardians of the Galaxy 3” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” is kicking off this Montrose drive-in’s family-friendly season, with the ticket office opening about 45 minutes before dusk. The site is a historical landmark, having been continuously family-owned and operated for more than 70 years. Adult admission costs $8.50 and seniors are $6.50, with kids 11 and under getting in for free. 600 East Miami Road in Montrose. stardrivein.com

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