East 70 Drive-In

12819 E. Colfax Avenue,
Aurora, CO 80011

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1975 photo credit & copyright Save the Signs, via their Facebook page of the same name.

Opened on July 4, 1947 as the Drive-In. The opening movies were Groucho Marx in “A Night in Casablanca” & Gale Storm in “Sunbonnet Sue”. In 1948 it was renamed East Drive-In. I lived behind the East Drive-In when it was in full operation (1955-1964). Many of us worked there during the summer washing windshields for tips and walking the back rows to clear out stragglers.

We had many a play hour there during the day, since the layout was quite amenable to go-karts. We would race from Colfax Street to the entrance booth and whip around the corner into the vast sea of speakers on poles. It was closed in 1990.

I happened to drive by on a visit to Aurora the day the wrecking crew was committing architectural homicide on the place and felt a genuine loss. I’m sure it was living on life support, but I still hated to see it go.

The North, South, East, West and Monaco drive-ins were part of the Compass chain of theatres when I was there. The East 70 Drive-In had an 850 car capacity.

Contributed by John Gillen

Recent comments (view all 37 comments)

MontyM
MontyM on May 4, 2018 at 7:56 pm

Maybe the 70 in East 70 drive in name came from Colfax Avenue being the I-70 Business loop thru metro Denver.

kennyjames
kennyjames on June 15, 2018 at 9:50 am

Hi MontyM – I thought the new East 70 had a connection with I-70 too until I was doing research for a series of books I’m putting together on the history of the Denver area’s drive-ins and theatres. Turns out the “70” was added to the name on 5/11/65 after the installation of a new 70mm screen. I-70 was built a few years later. Another fun fact – the East was simply referred to as “Drive-In Theatre” when it first opened on 7/4/47. It was given the East name shortly after it opened its second season in April 1948. If anyone reading this has questions about drive-ins or theatres, please feel free to get in touch. I’d be happy to share my research with you. Thanks ! .

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on September 13, 2019 at 5:51 pm

The April 14, 1990 Rocky Mountain News had a short article about Steven Vannoy, who heard that the East was going to be demolished so he cleaned it up and opened it for that season as The East Drive-In Revisited. He added FM radio and armed guards, and planned to build volleyball courts.

The address was listed as 12819 E. Colfax Ave.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on November 13, 2019 at 8:12 pm

This note, from Billboard Aug. 14, 1954, could be posted on any Wolfberg drive-in: “Unseasonably hot weather has boosted drive-in business in the Denver area with nearly a dozen theaters making a bid for the trade. At Wolfberg’s Compass theaters, the Fuller Bros.‘ Drive-In Circus has been making a three-week stay, moving from one theater to another. Show has 30 performers who put on 10 acts. This attraction is in addition to full-length double bills, comedies and short subjects.”

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on November 18, 2019 at 11:27 am

Motion Picture Herald, May 17, 1947: “The newly organized Denver Drive-In Theatre Corp., headed by John Wolfberg and Harold Cohen, is building Denver’s first drive-in. Costing $115,000, the theatre will be a 750-car affair, to open about June 1.”

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on November 30, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Boxoffice, July 25, 1977: “DENVER – The East 70 Drive-In, which is Colorado’s first outdoor theatre, celebrated its 30th birthday this summer. … The East 70 opened July 4, 1947, with the double feature “A Night in Casablanca” and “Sunbonnet Sue” at a cost of 60 cents for adults and free admission for children, according to the Sunday Denver Post.”

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on March 29, 2020 at 5:03 am

The site might now be the car park for the Childrens Hospital Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus(it’s fan shaped like the drive-in’s ramps)?

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on May 3, 2020 at 1:13 pm

Thanks to HistoricAerials.com’s easy-to-use tools, we know that the East’s ramps persisted on the south side of Colfax through a 2011 aerial photo, but became a surface parking lot by 2013. The lot it became appears perfectly rectangular in my eyes, both in overall shape and in its rows of parking spaces. The fan-shaped lot is much closer to the hospital, on the other side of Colfax.

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on May 4, 2020 at 12:16 am

Opened with “A night in Casablanca” and “Sunbonnet Sue”.

kennyjames
kennyjames on September 10, 2020 at 9:44 am

I’ve put together a booking history for the East Drive-in, from 1947 up to 1978 so far, in case anyone might like to know when a particular movie played there. I’ll be happy to share my research with you. Take care – Ken Mitchell ()

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