How the Encore of a Drive-In Cinema Could Help Revitalize the San Luis Valley

When the Border cinema debuted on May 14, 1955, with more than 300 cars crammed into its parking lot in the rural San Luis Valley. Whether he’s initially drawn to the free admission to the opening night or the opportunity to watch Oscar winner Edmond O’Brien avenge his murdered fiancée in path of war, many in the crowd returned. Like movie theaters and drive-ins across the country, the Frontier became a cultural lifeline for local rancher and farming families, until cable television bankrupted it in 1985. Now, 37 years later, Mark Falcone, a Denver developer whose Continuum Partners helped revamp Union Station, hopes to restore the Frontier to artistic strength in the area.

The project is personal. Not only did Falcone fall in love with the valley when he helped the Nature Conservancy buy land there in the ’90s, but his two children are also well-connected to people in the film industry. The theatre, outside the town of Centre, is developed by a family offshoot of continuum called Continuud.

The Frontier won’t just host blockbusters. It will be a hub for stage performances and art installations, among other cultural events, coordinated by part-time Valley resident and former Denver gallerist Adam Gildar. “We see restoration as a way for residents of the big cities of the Front Range to better connect to the way of life of our fellow rural residents,” Falcone said. The on-site yurts and cabins will encourage visiting townspeople to stay longer and contribute more to the local economy which, long after its heyday of booming mining towns and commercial centers along the Old Spanish Trail, is one of the poorest in the state.

That’s why many residents are excited about the Frontier and other arts-focused projects popping up in the valley (see below). “It brings a sense of possibility to a place that for a long time didn’t feel much hope,” says David Colville, 49-year-old rancher and longtime Valley resident. The existing community will not be left out either. Culinary events at The Frontier will pair guest chefs such as Kelly Whitaker of Boulder de Basta and the Wolf’s Tailor with local farmers, and there are plans to host a small film festival focusing on water issues affecting the valley. Falcone hopes this will help the Frontier become a gathering place for entertainment and education, both served with a bag of buttery popcorn.

More Businesses Bloom in the San Luis Valley

The Frontier Drive-In is not a solo exhibition. Three more transplants are bringing new ideas to towns in the San Luis Valley.

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1. New Sky Ranch
Boulderite partners, artists and alumni Victor Rivera and Gigi Douglas plan to hold free eco-friendly workshops on everything from permaculture to green building techniques when they launch their studio, glamping site and creative retreat this summer.

Del Norte

2. General Specific Store
Florida owners and registrars Corey Hubbard and Ryan Methfessel often host dinner parties and community art shows in the historic tin-ceilinged ballroom of their new art empire and curio shop.

3. Sweet Moon Lodge
After fleeing the East Coast in 2018, filmmaker and San Luis Valley native Sam Bricker and his wife, Jessica Lovelace, transformed a 1940s RV into this minimalist retro retreat complete with a bike shop and a bar.

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