The 5 Best Outdoor Cinemas in Colorado

Catch a flick under the stars at these summer nightlife options

Red Rocks Amphitheater
••• By night, Red Rocks turns into an outdoor cinema. Barry Winiker

Colorado is one of the most active states in the nation. And getting physical on the ski slopes, mountain trails, bike paths and campgrounds is one of the biggest draws to a vacation here.

But sometimes, even Coloradans have to relax. For those nights, you can enjoy the outdoors, too. (Just without the exertion.) You can stretch out under the stars and watch a movie on the big screen.

Outdoor cinema is huge in Colorado, which traditionally has mild summer nights (although it's also known for being moody, so dress in layers and always check the weather reports before making outdoor plans).

If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the Colorado outdoors without working up a sweat, here are some of the best outdoor cinemas in the state.

1. Film on the Rocks

Red Rocks Amphitheater is one of the most stunning concert venues in the world. The stage seems to be carved into the side of a dramatic red rock mountainside, and the rows of seats stretch dramatically upward around it. 

While Red Rocks is famous for drawing some of the biggest-name musical performers, on select days throughout the summer, it transforms into a unique outdoor movie theater. Beyond just catching classic and cult faves (“The Princess Bride” and “Labyrinth,” just for starters), each show kicks off with an opening band or stand-up comedian. So the shows are a full-night event that's a little more interactive than a regular night out in a dark and quiet movie theater. 

Check the website for the current list of offerings. If you're lucky, you may be able to catch the likes of "The Breakfast Club" or "Pretty Woman," although newer releases may be shown, too.  

2. Boulder Outdoor Cinema

This almost feels like a flash mob movie-showing. Downtown Boulder is normal (well, for Boulder) until suddenly a large screen pops up in the parking lot behind the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th St. in Boulder. Bodies spread out on blankets below and fill the lot, just a short walk to busy Pearl Street with its many restaurants and bars. Food trucks flock to the region, too, so it's easy to grab a bite to enjoy while you watch. 

In true flash-mob-movie style, the Boulder Outdoor Cinema also has an oversized inflatable mobile screen, which it pops up in different locations throughout the Front Range.

In the past, this screen has streamed "Monty Python." The line-up changes every season but is usually a mixture of new and classic and quirky, just the way Boulder likes its fun. 

3. Civic Center Bike-in Movies

Ride your bike to Civic Center Park in Denver (see, there’s that Colorado active mindset leaking into its relaxation) and catch a free flick, beginning at dusk on select Wednesdays in the summer. Lock your bike on the rack and find a seat on the grass. Pack a picnic or grab food at the food trucks that always hover nearby. 

The Civic Center Bike-In Movies are organized by the nonprofit Civic Center Conservancy, and encourage visitors and residents to spend more time in the park and gather as a community. In the past, this screen has shown "Miracle" and "Hoosiers." Expect a blend of old and new, like "Back to the Future" and "Jurassic World."

5. Movies and Music in the Park

The cute mountain town of Golden transforms its Parfet Park into a free, family-friendly outdoor cinema on Friday nights in the summer, typically in August, for its Movies and Music in the Park. The events begin with live music around 7 p.m., before kicking off the feature attraction when the sun goes down. Movies are all family friendly — Disney galore (such as "101 Dalmations" in the past) — and shown on an inflatable screen. Visitors pack picnics or pick up a snack (from pizza to ice cream to popcorn, of course) from the on-site vendors.

 

5. Elitch's Dive-In Movies

Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park takes outdoor movies to the water, with its Dive-In Movies shown in the pool at this popular Denver amusement park. 

Imagine watching "Jaws" on an outdoor screen while (gasp) floating in the pool, your bare legs dangling in the water beneath you. 

Not every movie is as terrifying as that scene, luckily. In the past, Elitch's has also shown "Moana" (much more appealing to view in the pool) and "Finding Dory" (pretend you're a fish while watching this funny, fishy cartoon). The Dive-In Movies are family-friendly and shown every Friday night in the summer season. Bonus: The movies are free with regular admission or a season pass. 

Oh, and you can just sit on a lawn chair or cabana outside the pool if you're too scared to float and watch.