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Meltzner: A movie-goer’s guide to Fort Collins

Title board showing the films playing at the drive-in.
Holiday Twin Drive-In had a great line-up of summer hits to close out their season this weekend. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Fort Collins has quite the reputation for being a nature adventurist’s paradise with its surplus of bike paths, hiking trails, fishing spots and parks. But the amenities of Fort Collins go far beyond a great day at Horsetooth Reservoir, extending into a hidden hotbed of cultural entertainment, including some truly unique experiences for movie lovers. 

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The Lyric, Fort Collins’ own independent theater, is a must-visit for the unmatched movie-going experience it provides. Located on College Avenue just a few miles north of campus, The Lyric provides its patrons with an “experience (that) doesn’t start at the trailers and end with the credits,” as stated in their manifesto. They support this principle by including both indoor and outdoor screening areas, an in-house bar that features a slew of local beers and live shows from both musicians and performance artists. 

The experience of seeing a movie on a giant projector screen outdoors is already one-of-a-kind, but nothing compares to the beautiful backdrop of Horsetooth Mountain just west of the (Holiday Twin Drive-In Theatre).”

I believe that the environment and decor of the theater are really what sets it apart from any other cinema I’ve visited before. An eclectic collection of art and film memorabilia fills its lobby, creating an exciting atmosphere of creativity and artistry. There’s nothing quite like walking under arches covered in string lights or sprawling metal ceiling sculptures as you enter the theater.

Their manifesto also states, “While a cinema at heart, we’ve moved beyond the constraints of the word’s definition.” They have multiple daily showings featuring a wide range of movies mainly centered around new independent films, but they also feature distinctive film-centric events on a weekly basis which, to me, is what backs up their claim of moving beyond a cinema.

light up "the lyric" sign
The Lyric, a movie theater that primarily shows indie films, located on College Avenue. (Megan McGregor | The Collegian)

One such event is the recurring Experimental Pints & Pictures, where you can enjoy “a mind-bending evening of experimental film, installation and performance art and even live music” on select evenings throughout the year. Another upcoming event is the LuneASeas Silent Film Festival on Aug. 27, which features “over 15 short films from professional dancers, musicians, circus performers (and) independent filmmakers from Northern Colorado and across the country.”

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more casual movie-going experience that still has a unique touch, look no further than the Holiday Twin Drive-In Theatre, located near the intersection of Overland Trail and Drake Road. The Holiday Twin is an old-school drive-in theater with two screens that show all of the blockbuster fare featured at the chain theaters, so there’s always something screening for everyone. 

Sunset over the drive in parking lot.
Holiday Twin Drive-In had their final showing over the weekend of Sept. 4, 2017. They are now closed for the season. (Ashley Potts | The Collegian)

The experience of seeing a movie on a giant projector screen outdoors is already one-of-a-kind, but nothing compares to the beautiful backdrop of Horsetooth Mountain just west of the drive-in. It also has a snack bar with all the classic favorites in addition to a grill that fires up every weekend to serve mid-movie dinner to viewers.

I personally enjoy unique theaters like the Holiday Twin and The Lyric because of how they enhance the movie-going experience beyond just watching a film surrounded by others. These theaters go above and beyond to create a heightened level of excitement and engagement around the movies they screen to not only better showcase the filmmakers’ work, but also make the act of simply going to the movies into an event.

The Fort Collins film scene isn’t limited to experimental theaters or scenic drive-ins. This year it is hosting the third annual Horsetooth International Film Festival, an event that runs from Sept. 8-12 and features live music and art installations along with its slate of competing films. Its creators tout it as “a festival by filmmakers, for filmmakers” and say it was “designed to unite filmmaking and other creative communities to celebrate the art of storytelling and provide a platform for this art.” 

People gathered in the lobby and socializing at The Museum of Discovery.
People joining together at the first-ever Horsetooth International Film Festival (Ty Davis | The Collegian).

Its events include everything from concerts to “Mix & Mingles” to workshops, even featuring two after-parties that encourage inclusivity and collaboration at the five-day extravaganza. This level of personal engagement with the films and their creators is what really sets apart the HIFF from other film festivals, giving it a uniquely personal touch that is lost in many larger, more publicized festivals.

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The festival is a great example of the artistic and creative community that is rapidly growing in Northern Colorado and is a great way to both support this community and become involved with it. There are many different communities in the Fort Collins area, but I believe the film community is one that truly stands out as unique in its striving towards creating a unique experience for its patrons, while also maintaining the personable and engaging “small-town” feel that sets it apart in the first place.

To me, HIFF, The Holiday Twin and The Lyric are essential for any incoming residents who are looking to engage with that community or are simply looking for a fun, entertaining experience that can only be found right here in Fort Collins. 

JD Meltzner can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @jd_meltzner

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