The Chief Theater
A Steamboat Springs Landmark
The Chief Theater was built in 1926 by Mark Schafermeyer, who owned the property and deeded it to local visionary “Chief” Harry Gordon for $25,000, according to Paul Van Horn, whose father managed the Village and Time Square Cinemas. Harry was a descendant of the Miami tribe.
Harry Gordon hired Arthur E. Gumprecht, a well-known local builder to oversee the theater’s construction. The original single-story building had a seating capacity of 500, and was acclaimed to be the largest theater in Northwest Colorado.
Opening in early 1927, the Chief Theater was Steamboat Springs’ second motion picture house and the first to feature “talkies.” Said to be a cultural center from the beginning, the Chief Theater stands as a tribute to the town’s cultural legacy.
American Indian art that used to cover all of the theater’s walls. It was created by local artist Bob Smith. The murals that graced the walls were four scenes, now hidden by the remodels, including a Native American woman doing beadwork, two Native Americans engaged in a snake ritual, Native Americans hunting in vast open plains and two masked Native Americans engaged in a tribal dance.The concession stand was called the ‘Kiva,’ in Indian it meant the meeting place,”
Bought by Mike Barry in 1970, throughout the 1980s until 2010, the Chief was not a multi-use theater but housed a four-plex movie theater operated by Mike Barry. It wasn’t until summer 2013 that the venue was revived by the nonprofit Friends of the Chief.
However, time and money were not the only factors that contributed to the Chief becoming a multi-use theater again; it took unwavering support from community members who were willing to put their time and energy toward renovations, new programming and a fresh vision.
The theater was purchased for $1.45 million by the Friends of the Chief with help from private investors in 2012. The Chief opened its doors as a cultural and performing arts center in summer 2013.
(Excerpts from article in our cherished Steamboat Pilot.)