The Arts Complex provides a single entertainment destination with universal accessibility to an array of world-class entertainment and culture that everyone can enjoy.

The site of the Arts Complex has a long and noteworthy history as a cultural and civic center for metropolitan Denver, the state of Colorado and the entire Rocky Mountain region.

Beginning with the opening of the Municipal Auditorium in 1908 through present day, the Arts Complex has hosted aspiring performers and cultural icons across the spectrum of arts and entertainment, as well as local, national and internationally influential politicians, and countless public and private events.

A Brief History of the Arts Complex 

1908

Denver Municipal Auditorium officially opens on July 5 and hosts the Democratic National Convention.

(Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library)

1909

The Denver Municipal Auditorium is inaugurated as the city’s municipal theatre. 

(Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library)

1941

First half of Auditorium Arena is added on Champa St. side along 13th St.

1952

Second half of the Auditorium Arena is completed on September 25 to expand the complex to cover the entire block of Curtis, Champa, 13th and 14th streets.

1956

Auditorium Theatre is remodeled for $800k reducing it from a 3,336 capacity to a 2,240 fixed-seat theatre.

1965

Denver Urban Renewal demolishes much of old downtown, clearing the site for the Denver Performing Arts Complex and Convention Center.

1967

The National Basketball Association Denver Rockets debuts. The Rockets, later renamed the Denver Nuggets in 1974, play in the Auditorium Arena until 1975.

(Photo Courtesy of Adolph H. Grundman Collection)

1972

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is created by Donald Seawell with funding from the Helen G. Bonfils Foundation. Robert Garner Attractions teams up with the newly created DCPA to help Denver shift from a small theatre town to nationally acclaimed destination and to open up the possibility for longer running shows. 

1977

With a master plan provided by Roche-Dinkelo, Boettcher Concert Hall and an eight-level parking garage are constructed. The master plan also calls for a glass galleria inspired by the great galleria in Milan, Italy, that would connect the parking structure to the auditorium, the arena, Boettcher Concert Hall and the under-construction Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex. 

(Photo Courtesy of DCPA)

1978

Boettcher Concert Hall opens on March 4 as the home of the Denver Symphony Orchestra and the nation's first in-the-round concert hall. New York Times architectural critic Paul Goldberger called it “an architectural event as much as a cultural one.”

 

1979

The Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, also designed by Kevin Roche, opens on December 31 with the first performances of the DCPA Theatre Company. He purposefully designs the all glass theatre entrance to create a transparent invitation to come inside. 

1983

Nathaniel Merrill, Opera Colorado's founder, came to Denver in 1981 after twenty-seven years at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. In March 1983, he stages Opera Colorado’s first production in Boettcher Hall, Otello, without the usual opulent sets and backdrops typical for opera and instead produces an opera in the round.

1989

Denver Center Attractions, part of DCPA, is finding it increasingly difficult to court elaborate Broadway productions into the Auditorium Theatre. In 1989, with City bond support and a naming-rights gift from the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation, the auditorium is gutted though the original walls remain and construction begins on the Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre.

1991

Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre opens on November 1 with The Phantom of the Opera. The high ceiling of the Buell is built to accommodate the chandelier that crashes during the production. The sold-out run plays for ten weeks attracting people from across the country and pumping an estimated $40M into Denver's economy.

2000

DCPA Theatre Company produces the world premiere of The Laramie Project, about the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. This play has become one of the most widely produced plays in regional theatre and was made into an HBO special. 

2002

The Lion King national tour premieres in Denver and stays for ten weeks. The Arts Complex has become the place selected to launch many national tours including Hello Dolly! (94-95), Sunset Boulevard (96-97), Oliver! (03-04), A Chorus Line (07-08), The Book of Mormon (12-13), If/Then (15-16), Dear Evan Hansen (18/19), to name a few. 

(Photo of 2Buyi Zama (Rafiki) ©Disney. Photo by Deen van Meer)

2003

Jonathan Borofsky’s 60-foot tall sculpture, Dancers, is installed in Sculpture Park comprised of 25,000 pounds of fiberglass and steel. The artwork was created to capture the energy of the complex and has become an iconic landmark along Speer Blvd.

2005

The Ellie has been renovated many times and most notably in the early 2000s when everything but its historic shell is rebuilt into a lyric opera house. Through seat tax revenues and bond proceeds, private donations and a generous gift from the Caulkins family, the venue reopens in 2005 as the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, honoring Denver's First Lady of Opera, Ellie Caulkins.

2006

Antique Gold and Pale Aquamarine Chandelier, a fanciful chandelier by Dale Chihuly, perhaps the world’s best-known glass artist, is installed in the Ellie in 2006. This is the first major piece of art that greets visitors above the entry lobby. 

2007

Ellie Caulkins Opera House hosts the original production of Disney's The Little Mermaid for a sold-out seven-week run. This pre-Broadway debut offers cast and crew time to work out the kinks while lucky Denver audiences have the chance to see the show before it opens on Broadway later that year. 

2017

Sunset Cinema, a free outdoor film series created by Denver Arts & Venues in partnership with Denver Film launches in the Galleria. The 2017 dance inspired season includes Footloose, Moulin Rouge, Saturday Night Fever and Step Up. This annual series continues to highlight films of all kinds - classics, cult favorites, musicals and more - paired with themed entertainment and performances.

2017

Disney Theatrical Productions selects Denver to host the pre-Broadway debut of Frozen. The show plays the Mile High City for seven weeks generating a $30M economic impact.

(Photo of Patti Murin (Anna) and John Riddle (Hans) in FROZEN. Photo by Deen van Meer)

2019

The Next Stage Gallery opens in 2019 as a free, interactive space presented by the University of Colorado Denver and Denver Arts & Venues. This space was built into a flexible modern gallery with focus on new technology in art and design with shows rotating through every few months.

Prelude-+-Post-Exterior-spot

2020

Prelude + Post, formerly known as Limelight Supper Club, opens inside the Arts Complex for show attendees and downtown diners alike. The lively space is perfect for pre-theater dinner and drinks and post-theater desserts and night caps.