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Movie buffs fight to keep historic Capitol Hill cinema alive amid redevelopment proposal

The Esquire Theatre has been open for nearly 100 years, but could close its doors in 2024
Posted at 5:01 PM, Dec 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-04 08:39:52-05

DENVER — A group of movie buffs is fighting to keep a historic cinema open in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. After being open for nearly a century, there's a proposal to redevelop the Esquire Theatre.

On Sunday, the old movie marquee read, “May the odds be ever in our favor." A message getting fans ready for a showing of the newest Hunger Games.

For Jolee Harston, the marquee holds a deeper meaning: An effort to garner enough support to save a nearly 100-year-old theatre.

“I was hooked the moment I set foot there,” Harston said.

Harston’s first memories there were at a midnight showing as a teenager, in the theatre that started as the single-screen Hiawatha in 1927.

Last month, the owners submitted a proposal to convert the property into retail, restaurant and office space.

“My initial reaction to hearing that … it wasn’t hopelessness... It was more just like, I know how many people love this place. We’ve got to make some noise. We can’t go down without a fight,” Harston said.

That’s why Harston created an Instagram account @savetheesquire, dedicated to preserving the theatre.

Matt Tourresani lives right next door to the theatre’s parking lot.

Movie buffs fight to keep historic Capitol Hill cinema alive amid redevelopment proposal

“You walk these streets and it's just old, beautiful homes and this is part of it. So I want it to stay,” Tourresani said, referring to the Esquire.

Harston's next step is asking the city for landmark preservation status. That journey starts December 5.

“The movement has really helped remind people what a staple it is to the Denver culture and art scene,” Harston said.

The movement also explores avenues to find the historic theater a new buyer to keep the big screen on and the box office open.

Denver7 reached out to the building’s owner for comment, but so far we have not heard back.

If approved, the project is planned to start in June of 2024.

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