Denham Theatre

1810 California Street,
Denver, CO 80202

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Denham Theater

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The Shubert brothers, James, Sam and Lee, ran a huge theatre empire from their offices in New York, and their Shubert Theatre opened in Denver in 1913. The name was changed to the Denham Theatre shortly after its opening.

Originally a stage theatre, productions starred the likes of Alice Brady, Gladys George, Mary Boland, Otis Skinner, Marjorie Rambeau, and the famous comedy team of Olson and Johnson. The Wilkes Players, the theatre’s own stock company, leased the theatre for the first twenty years. The Denham Theatre had its own orchestra and musicals, plays and vaudeville routines were a mainstay for many years.

The theatre was entirely fireproof, built of steel, concrete and brick, and seated over 1,660 persons, 200 of those in boxes three tiers high. The interior was finished in shades of blue and gold, with row after row of plush seats. The theatre replaced one of Denver’s Victorian mansions at the site. In 1930 The Denham Theatre was converted to a motion picture theatre.

In its earliest days, the six-story building contained offices for mining, lumber, oil and railroad companies, along with the central offices for the Crown Hill Cemetery Association.

In 1951 the Denham Theatre was given a major overhaul. The boxes were torn out, the blue and gold were replaced with red and chartreuse, and the lobby and facade were completely modernized. New seating was installed along with a new sound system. In the process, much of its former charm was lost forever. But it thrived for the next two decades with first-run features such as “Ben Hur” and “Cleopatra” with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. It closed its doors for good in 1974, and the building has been replaced with a parking garage.

Contributed by James Bretz

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

muckey898
muckey898 on March 9, 2007 at 11:13 pm

Here is a photo of the Denham Theater.
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CaptainBill
CaptainBill on December 31, 2010 at 7:42 pm

The Denham Theatre underwent major overhaul in 1959, not 1951, in preparation for the 70mm Ultra Panavision roadshow engagement of “Ben-Hur”. MGM had much input into the overhaul, including mounting surround speakers in the ceilings in recessed fittings, not in speakers inside cabinets on the side and back walls. Two Norelco DP70/35 projectors were installed and fitted with purpose-built Ultra Panavision lenses. Studio engineers visited the theatre every month or two to tweak the projection and sound. The 12khz surround guide channel was especially troublesome for some reason.

MGM was also most insistent that the title of their movie be spelled “Ben-Hur”, with a hyphen. On the building’s two-sided neon sign mounted on the corner of the building, the letters were altered to read BEN-HUR rather than DENHAM. The hyphen was not neon but two metal plates fastened one on each side between the N and H. Later these letters were altered again to read EXODUS in very expensive blue neon for that movie’s run, then changed back to DENHAM. The hyphens disappeared.

I remember these things because I worked at the Denham as an assistant manager for several months during the “Ben-Hur” engagement, and later visited to get my fix of 70mm roadshow extravaganzas like “El Cid”, a studio preview of “Mutiny on the Bounty”, and “Mediterranean Holiday” which, along with “Windjammer”, seen at the Tabor Grand, pushed me toward my eventual career as a sea captain. Not bad for a geeky kid from Denver.

MontyM
MontyM on February 27, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Thank you William for the interesting and great information on the Denham Theater.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on June 8, 2011 at 10:00 am

“Molly Brown” comes home: British Pathe

Denvercary
Denvercary on December 29, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Captain Bill: Was Bob Clark the manager of the theater in 1959? Do you remember projectionists Chuck Weber and Dan Kelly? How about Vera Cockrill (the owner)? If you remember any of these people, please contact me at . Thank you.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 14, 2014 at 5:45 pm

This page from the Landmarks Association of St. Louis says that St. Louis architects Harry G. Clymer and Francis Drischler designed the Shubert Theatre in Denver.

The entry for the Colorado-Yule Marble Company in the 1913 edition of Sweet’s Catalog of Building Construction lists the Shubert Theatre Building in Denver among recent projects using the company’s products, and that list also attributes the design to Clymer & Drischler.

Interestingly, the Princess Theatre in St. Louis, also designed by Clymer & Drischler, was built by an outfit called the McClure Construction Company. A Frank P. McClure Construction company was operating in Kansas City around this time, and I suspect that the Denver Public Library, whose photo of the Denham Building is the most likely source for our current attribution of this theater to McClure, mistook the contractor on the project for the architect.

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