Fri August 2, 2013
Arts & Life

Estes Park Landmark Celebrates 100 Years

This weekend the Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park will have a decidedly vintage look as it celebrates its 100th year with the Silent Movie Comedy Film Festival.

Eight films will be shown Saturday and Sunday, accompanied by live music from accomplished pianist Jordan McBeen.

The comedies include films starring Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton.

"All of these actors – Charlie Chaplin in particular – were the highest-paid and most popular actors of their day. They were the reason people went to films," says Steve Smersh, who’s helping produce the festival, now in its second year.

While most people are familiar with silent movies, not many have experienced the unique art form that combines cinema and live piano, Smersh says.

The event is a fundraiser for the historic venue, which was built in 1913 -- making it the oldest continuously operating movie theater in the U.S.

There’s a lot of history that comes along with a building that’s 100 years old.

Legend has it that the Park Theatre’s second owner, Ralph Gwynn, built the white tower (the tallest building in town) as a testament to his broken heart after being jilted at the altar by his bride-to-be. A red neon heart and a white neon ring are visible near the top of the tower.

"The tower is beautiful on the outside -- but empty and hollow on the inside," Smersh says.

Former owner Ralph Gwynn helped develop this 1917 projector on display in the Historic Park Theatre lobby
Credit Courtesy of the Historic Park Theatre

Besides symbolizing love, the tower also strongly resembles an old radio. Smersh says that’s no coincidence.

"Ralph was also instrumental in bringing recorded sound onto film," he says. "There was a time during the middle 1920s when people were scrambling to somehow get sound onto movies… and he was part of that."

One of the projectors Gwynn helped develop is on display in the theater lobby.

Matinee performances start at 2:15 p.m. this weekend, Aug. 3 and Aug. 4. There’s an encore performance of the Silent Movie Comedy Film Festival Aug. 17 – 18.

Tickets are available at the box office or here.