Made in Colorado: how the film industry is growing in our state

Aubrey Shanahan

When you think about where movies are made, chances are you conjure mental pictures of sound stages in Los Angeles or glamorous locations around the world. However, there is a slowly but surely increasing trend of films being made on location throughout the United States.

For years Canada has been the most popular location, as it is cheaper to shoot there than in California, but now, some states are offering new incentives for moviemakers to film in America.


Colorado is one of those states, though movies have been filmed here since the industry picked up in the 1920s. The earliest film shot in Colorado was Charlie Chaplin’s film, “The Gold Rush, in 1925. Several westerns followed, including “True Grit” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Some other pleasant surprises include WarGames,” an early Matthew Broderick film, “Die Hard 2,” “Thelma and Louise,” “Dumb and Dumber,” “Independence Day,” Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “The Prestige,” “Blades of Glory,” and most recently, “The Lone Ranger.”

Almost none of these were filmed entirely in Colorado, but they certainly display the range of scenery the state has to offer.

Many outsiders associate Colorado with mountains and skiing, which some of these films, like “Dumb and Dumber,” took advantage of. Others, however, have recognized that we have sweeping plains as well as desert and canyon scenery. There are not many states that can offer such a wide variety of terrain in such a short expanse, so it is no wonder Hollywood has begun to show interest.

As reported by Collegian Film Beat Writer Morgan Smith, Quentin Tarantino will be shooting his next film, “The Hateful Eight,” in and around Telluride. This is partly due to the aesthetics, but has a great deal to do with the $5 million incentive given to the filmmakers by the state. The Colorado Film Commission offers a 20 percent rebate of production costs as well as loan programs for additional help covering costs.

Hopefully Tarantino’s decision to film in Colorado will inspire others to follow suit. It could be a great source of revenue for both the state and whichever town is used in production, and could help boost tourism.

Filming is not the only aspect of movie culture in Colorado, though. Film festivals across the state are luring in cinephiles to view popular independent releases, as well as recent works from local filmmakers. Most notably, Starz hosts a film festival in Denver, which brought Oscar films such as “Foxcatcher and “Wild” to the city weeks or even months before their limited releases.

This April the Stanley Film Festival will take place in Estes Park, and it will feature independent horror films.

Film in Colorado has a long way to go before it becomes a substantial industry in the state, but it seems as though the film industry is outgrowing its roots in Hollywood.

While it seems that Los Angeles will remain the film and television hub for many years to come, perhaps Colorado can entice filmmakers who are looking elsewhere for shooting locales and film culture.

Collegian A&E Writer Aubrey Shanahan can be reached at or on Twitter @aubs926.