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When the Ute was razed, Russ Wolfe, owner of the Flying W Ranch northwest of Colorado Springs, was able to purchase a number of the theater’s architectural elements, which he installed in the Ranch’s Winter Steakhouse. Among these were the chandeliers that were installed on the ceiling of the theater. Sadly on June 26, 2012, the Flying W Ranch burned to the ground in the destructive Waldo Canyon wildfire and these treasures were lost forever.
Sadly, all of the architectural remains that were purchased before the theater was razed and later re-installed in the Flying W Ranch’s steakhouse are now gone forever. On June 12, 2012, the devastating Waldo Canyon wildfire overran the Flying W, reducing the entire facility to ashes. Not to be overlooked was the corresponding total loss of 346 nearby residences in the Shadow Mountains subdivision. A sad sad day for Colorado Springs history.
I ran shows here in 1967-68 as an extra board operator for Local 550, the now long-gone IA operator’s local. Alonzo T. Hughes was the BA then and set all the projectionist calls from the booth office. It was mostly a B run house then with a heavy Navy attendance and had seen better days. Still, the equipment was well-maintained and was an easy booth to work.
Somehow, the topic has strayed away from The Denver Cooper Theater. Cen we return our comments to where they belong?
This was actually opened as the “Ute 70” in 1967 and was the down-the-street replacement for the original Ute Theater. The “70” tag related to its capability of running 70mm; an advertising “plus” in the late-60’s and early-70’s.
I worked the extra board here in 1980-1983. My mentor was the late Glen Raines, probably one of the most professional operators I have ever had the pleasure to work with. The booth was nearly spotless with Century heads and Ashcraft Super Cinex water-cooled lamphouses. Up until the theater was twinned and prior to its eventual demolition, it ran with an enjoyable “changeover” booth that preceded the challengeless era of platters and “cold” xenon light sources.
Warren, thanks loads for these great pictures! Just wish color had been the vogue in ‘37 as monochrome simply does not do justice to what the ol’ place really looked like. However, they do show the meticulous detail of the artwork and the house curtain’s design remained intact up until the last time I saw it from the booth; maybe ‘64 or '65. If anything, they illustrate the absolute necessity of preserving these architectural treasures. BTW, does anyone on this forum know if vaudeville ever ran at the Ute? I know the Chief, down the street on Pikes Peak Avenue, was originally a vaudeville house but I am unsure if it ran elsewhere in The Springs. Also for any of you Old Timers, Wayne Lemle, the IATSE projectionist who worked alongside my mentor at the Ute, A.B. Cooke Sr, passed away last year after many years of service to the craft. Sadly, these old craftsmen are quickly passing into history.
The Colorado Springs Ute was an architectural gem, mainly owing to the Native American themes employed throughout the theater. It was a cousin of the Trail and Tompkins Theaters, neither of which could approach the Uteâ€™s formality and grandeur. Itâ€™s worth noting the Ute was owned and managed by the Cooper Foundation, who also ran the now-famous Cooper Cinerama roundhouses in Denver, Omaha and St. Louis Park, MN. When the Ute was closed and replaced by the Ute 70 immediately to its east on Nevada Avenue, it was a loss to Colorado Springs theater buffs. I learned the motion picture craft watching one of the Uteâ€™s long-time projectionists, Al (A.B.) Cooke Sr., who remains one of my boyhood heroes to this day. This manâ€™s dedication to perfection was unequalled, at least in my mind, and his kindness and mentoring has always been a source of pride. The Uteâ€™s booth consisted of meticulously maintained Simplex XLâ€™s with Peerless Magnarc lamphouses and I recall fondly the times Iâ€™d have to talk the grouchy old doorman into letting me up into the closed balcony to â€œvisit the booth.â€ If the theater missed anything architecturally, it was a lack of boxes either side of the stage. However, the auditorium was fairly box-like and Iâ€™m certain the incorporation of boxes would have significantly cramped the screen. Nevertheless, Iâ€™m sure that anyone who attended movies at the Ute will agree, it was a memorable theater and one that deserved preservation.
I saw HTWWW and Mad World there in the early 60’s. Seeing 3-strip Cinerama in this beautiful venue was an incredible experience. About 3-4 years ago, I went back to Denver and interviewed two of the projectionists who worked the Cooper and published this narrative at http://www.iatse354.com Click on the “Nostalgia” link to read this fascinating story. As the saying goes: “They don’t build them like this anymore.” and the Cooper’s loss was a loss to motion picture history.