Chris Craig of the Silver Cinema in Winter Park will be closing her theater before the end of July after 33 years of providing Grand County residents with first-run movies.
The theater opened Jan. 3, 1979, with the movie "The Revenge of the Pink Panther" starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, Craig said.
Craig moved to Winter Park while on her way from Greece to write for a newspaper in San Francisco where she was freelance writing.
"I came here with my old college roommate and I never made it to San Francisco," she said.
Craig had been living and working in Winter Park for about a year and a half before she decided to combine her interest in movies and her late night tendencies to open the Silver Cinema.
"I was a night owl and I loved movies so I thought I would open a theater," she said.
When Craig decided to start the theater she was given a very short time to produce a business plan for Vic Vestment who started the Park Place Shopping Center.
"I had two weeks to get plans together so I hit the ground running," she said.
During those two weeks she contacted a theater designer from Denver who helped her develop the layout of the theater and pieced together the rest of the plan on her own.
And two days after the new year began, the doors to the Silver Cinema were opened.
The other businesses that opened in the shopping center were: the Ski Depot, owned by Jack Gerstein; Gasthaus Cycle, owned by Hans and Hanna Eichler; Grapevine Liquor, owned by Bob Coffey; and the Park Market, where the Conoco now is.
Craig was 25 years old when the theater opened and recalls the projection techs making a last ditch effort to teach her how to run the projection equipment before they left.
"Dave Derrington, a local search and rescue guy who now works with Shurelock Security, had told me he was outside directing cars where to park because it was so busy that first night," she said. "I was in the theater folding popcorn bags."
The lone movie theater in Winter Park is probably one of the only movie houses with a dog greeter. And, in keeping with the small ski town zeitgeist, it has kicked off the ski season with Warren Miller films for over 25 years.
Craig remembers the '70s and '80s as the heyday of the movie business, when movies and distributors where more accessible and easier to work with.
"The distributors had offices in Denver with private screening rooms where you could get to know people on a one on one basis and friendships were formed," she said.
Craig viewed films by directors Frederico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa, the "foreign film heavyweights," she said.
Less complicated times
Craig remembers the simpler days of owning a theater and also remembers that Grand County has experienced good times and bad times, she said.
"People still came to the movies when things weren't so good," she said. "And it was nice to have the support of the community during those times."
"It's more difficult to run a single screen theater nowadays," she said. "Film is over."
At the end of this year, 35-millimeter film will no longer be made. Making the necessary digital upgrade would not be feasible for the theater, she said.
Now that a new theater called The Foundry is moving into the Fraser Valley, she believes the time is right take a step toward her "semi-retirement," she said.
"I am looking forward to being able to enjoy dinner," she said. "Something I haven't been able to do for over 30 years."
She also believes it will be nice to take some time off to travel, although she will miss the movies and the people.
"People around here never had that much to do, especially in those early years," she said. "I will miss that it was a hub of this small town and seeing so many people from the county."
After owning one of the few businesses in Winter Park that has been open for so long she still has no plans to leave Grand County.
"It's a great place to live," she said.
Craig looks forward to traveling back to Greece and spending some time in France as well as taking a few road trips with her dog "Goose" and having more time to volunteer.
Craig is putting something together a special surprise for the last week of the Silver Cinema. In the meantime, only a few fleeting weeks remain to bask in the theater's nostalgia.
And don't forget the popcorn.