The Peak of Local Cinema

Inside the long history of moviegoing at the indie, arthouse Kimball’s Peak Three Theater.

I remember the exact auditorium where I saw certain films at Kimball’s Peak Three Theater. Far from the Madding Crowd screened in upstairs Auditorium Three. The Young Victoria and Midnight in Paris played in big Auditorium One. It just seems appropriate to view arty historical films in an arty historical venue. Located in the original Peak Theater, Kimball’s has been a downtown landmark for 25 years and continues to draw audiences looking for a unique moviegoing place and experience. 

Its history runs even deeper. The Peak opened in the former State Bank building on June 19, 1937—just in time for “tourist season,” reported the Gazette. It was originally a single-screen theater with about 500 seats and became the city’s sixth movie theater at the time. The theater’s iconic marquee was expanded in 1949. Over the years, The Peak was sold a few times, becoming a dollar theater in the 1970s and closing in 1989. 

Meanwhile, a few blocks away Richard Skorman was operating a small arthouse theater out of his Poor Richard’s bookstore. He hired Kimball Bayles to manage it, and eventually Bayles purchased the operation. Soon they needed more space and the old Peak Theater was perfect. “We saw the theater and loved its history,” Bayles says. In 1994 Bayles and his business partners bought the building and opened as Kimball’s Twin Peak Theater, named after the TV show Twin Peaks. “It was pretty dazzling when it opened, and in my mind, it still is,” says former film critic Warren Epstein. “I discovered so many film treasures there, from My Dinner with Andre to Pulp Fiction. And it remains just as vital and relevant today.”

Bayles has transformed the building to accommodate a growing audience. During the initial renovation, many people told him stories about their own experiences at the old Peak Theater. “[They expressed] good feelings about a business coming back to life,” he says. “I always felt a big sense of responsibility and stewardship.”

wine bar at Kimball's peak three theater
Photo by Jason Fleming.

In 1994 they built a wall where the mezzanine was, creating two auditoriums and adding the second “peak” of the theater’s name. Kimball’s wife designed the wine bar. In 2009 an upstairs office was transformed into a third auditorium: peak number three. 

Today, Kimball’s is the only independent movie theater in the city. “[Bayles] favors films that have a lot of content, films that are more arthouse and independent pictures that he can get behind and enjoy,” says General Manager Daniel Trujillo.

“We have incredibly loyal customers,” Bayles says. “It’s like Cheers—my staff remembers what film they like, how they like their popcorn. In this world that gets more impersonal daily, it’s part of that good feeling that you don’t get anywhere else.”   

Insider Secrets

1. You can bring Josh & John’s ice cream from next-door into the theater as the exclusively-allowed outside food—don’t try it with anything else. 

2. The theater may be haunted by the ghost of a projectionist killed in a rumored fire at the theater. 

Reel to Reel

1935: State Bank Building opens at 115 E. Pikes Peak Ave.

1937: The Peak Theater opens.

1949: Peak Theater and surrounding stores are “modernized.”

1961: Peak Theater renovated to include a new 35-foot movie screen and a mural in the lobby.

1989: Peak Theater closes after 52 years.

1994: Kimball’s Twin Peak Theater opens.

2009: Third auditorium added, becoming Kimball’s Peak Three Theater.

2013: Theater goes to all-digital projection.

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