Downtown USA: Old Movie Theatre Love

There is one feature of many downtowns that always gets my attention and that is the old movie theatre (or theater). You know what I’m talking about. It is sometimes that boarded-up vintage building with a dirty, marque that reads: “For Sale.” Sadly. this is something I’ve witnessed during my travels. However, I’m seeing more and more theatres that are open, and some showing first-run movies.

Grand Theatre Grand Island, Nebraska, HeidiTown (web)
Grand Theatre in Grand Island, Nebraska. Website:

Several springs ago, on our Dust Bowl Road Trip that took us to parts of small-town Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and  New Mexico, I saw several old movie theatres. I popped into the one in Clayton, New Mexico, for a small bag of popcorn (movie theater popcorn is the best popcorn in the world).

Clayton, New Mexico, The Dust Bowl Road Trip, HeidiTown (web)
Luna Theatre has no website, but is showing first-run shows on the weekends! Google the name to get info.

While Dalhart, Texas has a quiet downtown, we walked around a bit and I snapped a photo of this beautiful Art Deco theatre.

Dalhart, Texas La Rita Theatre, The Dust Bowl Road Trip, HeidiTown (Web)
It looks like this theatre hosts live plays, music, and entertainers, as opposed to movies. Website:

Not only are old movie theatres often located in charming downtown buildings, they also act as gathering places. I have seen them be used for TEDx events, fundraisers, town hall meetings, and more. They are venues that can be used for more than just movies (and plays).

Atlas Theatre, Cheyenne, Wyoming, HeidiTown (web)
Atlas Theatre in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This space is owned by Cheyenne Little Theatre. Website:

These old theatres are in the smallest of communities and the largest of communities across the country. They are a fabric of the United States and are often part of the history of a town.

Sands Theatre, Brush, Colorado. HeidiTown (web only)
Sands Theatre in Brush Colorado. Website:

In a world that has lost many of its gathering spaces, I would like to see places like this survive and thrive. So, the next time you pass by your downtown theatre, ask, how can you help? Maybe it’s just going to a movie or play a couple of times per year, or maybe it’s renting their spaces for your various needs.

My town of Loveland, Colorado, has the historic Rialto Theater. This 104-year-old theatre is so much a part of our downtown that I cannot imagine Loveland without it. It does show movies, however, it also has an array of spotlight shows that one would expect to see on stage in a much larger city.

Rialto Theatre in Loveland, Colorado. Website:
Rialto Theater in Loveland, Colorado. Website:

Does your town have an old movie theatre? Tell us about it in the comments!


  1. Growing up my parents would occasionally take me to a double feature at the Oriental Theater on 44th Ave in North Denver, a truly beautiful venue that’s now mostly a concert venue.
    I had the privilege of working at the historic Elitch Theater on 38th Ave, when Eliches Amusement Park was still located in North Denver. This was a playhouse, it’s slowly being restored by volunteers and donations. This amazing wood building required 2 firefighters on duty whenever there was a performance because there was such concern about fire safety.


    1. You are part of Denver history, Linda!

      I remember watching a documentary about Elitches (I think it was on PBS). Really interesting history and great that you got to be part of it. The playhouse is spectacular and I hope they are able to get it restored.

      Thank you for the insightful comment!


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