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 26 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 27, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Here are two 1978 photos:

Photo1

Photo2

RJT70mm
RJT70mm on July 6, 2009 at 10:59 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 6:59 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 5:16 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 7:40 am

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

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Described in this May,1954 trade article: boxoffice

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Also featured in this 1954 trade ad: boxoffice

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on July 11, 2012 at 1:25 am

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 1:29 pm

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

Garma
Garma on April 3, 2013 at 9:58 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!

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