Centre Theatre

216 16th Street,
Denver, CO 80202

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Centre Theater

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The Centre Theatre was opened on April 29, 1954, with the World Premier of “River of No Return” starring Marilyn Monroe, with Hollywood stars who appeared ‘in person’. It was built for the Fox Inter-Mountain Theatres chain. Seating was provided on a stadium plan, with a raised stepped section at the rear, rather than a conventional overhanging balcony. It was equipped with a 60 feet wide curved CinemaScope screen.

This theatre is one of some 200 that could be described as “Skouras-ized For Showmanship” which is the title of the ANNUAL of 1987 of the Theatre Historical Soc. of America. In the late-1930’s through the 1950’s, there occurred on the west coast of the United States a phenomenon known as the ‘Skouras style’ in recognition of the oversight of the Skouras brothers in their management of several cinema chains. They employed a designer by the name of Carl G. Moeller to render their cinemas/theatres in a new style best described as ‘Art Moderne meets Streamlined.’ The then new availability of aluminum sheeting at low cost was the principal material difference to this style allowing for sweeping, 3-dimensional shapes of scrolls to adorn walls and facades in an expression that would have been much more expensive and not at all the same in plaster. With the use of hand tinted and etched aluminum forms, the designers could make ornaments in mass production that allowed much greater economies of scale. The ANNUAL also show in its 44 pages how some 20 theatres were good examples of this combining of aluminum forms with sweeping draperies heavily hung with large tassels, and with box offices and facades richly treated with neon within the aluminum forms. Few of these examples survive today, but it was a glorious era while it lasted, and this collection of crisp b/w photos is a fitting epitaph by the late Preston Kaufmann.

Contributed by Jim Rankin

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

spectrum
spectrum on June 25, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Still trying to find out what year the Centre was built. It was definitely built after 1941 (the 1942 AFI theatre listing does not include the Centre), but I don’t believe it could have been built to showcase the 1952 Cinemascope process (as mentioned above); it’s design looks too early for that. Possibly right after WW II?

larrygoldsmith
larrygoldsmith on January 24, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Does anyone remember when Jim Sutton managed this theatre in the early 70’s? He later left there to become district manager for No. Cal. division for National General. I remember working under him when he was DM, what a great guy he was. Would like to hear from anyone who would know where he is now.

RJT70mm
RJT70mm on July 6, 2009 at 7:59 am

I have a Theatre Catalog 1954-55 with a big article on the Centre. There’s a picture of the opening night marquee. The film was “River of no Return” and although there’s no date given, the movie premiered April 30, 1954 according to IMDB.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 14, 2010 at 3:59 am

A photo of the auditorium of the Centre Theatre was featured on the frontispiece of Boxoffice magazine’s Modern Theatre section of August 6, 1955. The curved screen was 28 feet high and 60 feet wide.

Rich Vincent
Rich Vincent on May 26, 2012 at 2:16 am

Larry,

Actually, Jim Sutton did not manage the Centre Theatre. He opened and managed the Century 21 Theatre in the late 1960’s, later becoming the City Manager for Denver and then District Manager before relocating to California. I also worked for him during that time and he truly was a wonderful man and was one of my role models as a young man in the exhibition industry. Sadly, he passed away quite a few years ago.

JohnMessick
JohnMessick on May 31, 2012 at 4:40 am

What a beautiful marquee. Don’t you love the neon?

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on July 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Looking at the auditorium and other photos, the theater’s “Skouras” remodeling made it a virtual twin to the Crest in Sacramento, right down to the sunken lower lobby; it’s also similar in many ways to the Crest in Fresno, especially the auditorium sidewall treatment.

bbfarmer
bbfarmer on February 5, 2013 at 10:29 am

Saw Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” here, as well as “The Big Bus”.

Garma
Garma on April 3, 2013 at 6:58 am

In and around 1956 my Dad was one of three managers of the Centre. The manager was Bob Sweeten and my Dad was the “house manager”. I was 12years old and he hired me to work as a page boy, which meant I removed cigarette butts from the sand urns and carried around a broom to sweep up trash. The Centre was the flagship of the Fox theater chain. The ushers and usherettes were hired from Lowry Air Force base and so there was a great deal of pride in the appearance of the staff. Managers wore tuxes and the ushers and usherettes uniforms were immaculate. What a beautiful theater it was!

Darwyn
Darwyn on July 23, 2014 at 5:41 pm

re: Jim Sutton… yes, I remember Jim well. (at least I think it was Jim Sutton. I read Rich’s note too and now I’m unsure, but this is what I remember… perhaps he worked both theatres?) Anway, I was in college at CU Boudler and worked full time at Centre Theatre in the summer under Jim and then later when the semester started up on the weekends. I only worked about a year.. this would be around ‘71-'72 thereabouts.

I really-really liked him as a manager. He was efficient, kind, fair and treated everyone with respect. He was a coin collector and I still have a few two dollar bills and a couple of five dollar silver certificates that he allowed me to swap out for cash. I promised him I would never spend them and I haven’t to this day. I think of him everytime I take them out.

In a way, I’m hoping that Rich is wrong only because I’d rather not think of Jim as not being aorund any longer. He was such a great guy. No matter what, I’ll always remember him with fondness.

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