Let’s Go to the Movies: Historic Theaters in the West

As films and movie theaters became increasingly popular modes of entertainment in the twentieth-century United States, the Intermountain West followed suit as families, migrants, and entrepreneurs established, renovated, and managed movie theaters to meet the growing demands. Movie theaters were more than just places for films and entertainment, though. As community spaces, theaters have been sites of desegregation and civil rights, community building in frontier towns, and technological innovation.

Ranging across Colorado, Idaho, and Nevada, this tour explores five historic movie theaters in the Intermountain West.

Fremont Theatre

The Fremont Theatre was located inside a hotel of the same name in Las Vegas, Nevada in the 1930s. It was one of the only theaters in town, but visitor attendance was not high enough to keep the Fremont active during the Great Depression period, so…

Blue Fox Theatre

The Blue Fox Theatre opened on May 2, 1930, in the small town of Grangeville, Idaho, three hours north of Boise. Its opening film was The Gold Diggers of Broadway, starring Nancy Welford and Conway Tearle. The theater’s owner, Al Wagner, developed a…

Spud Drive-in

A.C. “Ace” Wood started drafting plans for the construction of a drive-in theater in 1950. Wood was the owner of an indoor theater in Driggs known as “The Orpheum,” but the automobile culture of the 1950s inspired him to re-envision the cinema…

Park Theatre

The Park Theatre opened in 1913 and was one of the earliest features of the Estes Park land development in Colorado. The Estes Park Town Company, an organization of wealthy landowners and businessmen in the area, commissioned architect J.R. Anderson…

Redwood Drive-in

The United Intermountain Theaters Association opened the Redwood Drive-in on July 22, 1949, and the first movie to be featured on the forty-six by sixty screen was The Big Cat in technicolor.  The drive-in theater cost a total of $140,000 and was…