The History of Our Theatre
The wonderful and unique dome building, now known as Stargazers Theatre and Event Center, was built in 1969 as a United Artist Cinema 150 Cinerama Theater. Designed by the fascinating architect, Vincent G. Raney, Stargazers is one of the few remaining examples of his work of that time period. Another example of Mr. Raney’s work that still exists is the dome shaped Cinerama Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
The theatre was renovated by the Hooton family in 2008, during the course of which every interior inch was polished, painted, cleaned and improved.
Along with the cosmetic changes, many improvements were made to the infrastructure of the dome as well: new heating and air conditioning, a fire prevention sprinkler system and all new electrical and plumbing systems. The renovation was a lengthy and involved project with the size and the unique dome design proving to make the job a challenge for every trade. “At times it felt like an archeological dig”, says co-owner, Cindy Hooton, “we worked every day to uncover the beauty and the potential that we knew was there.” Since it’s re-opening in February 2009, Stargazers Theatre and Event Center has hosted hundreds of live music concerts, film screenings, a wide variety of other stage performances, corporate business seminars, and trainings. Stargazers has also become a favorite spot for community wide events and fundraising events for non-profit organizations and public.
Stargazers is committed to showcasing local, regional, and national talent. Co-owner John Hooton states: “There is so much amazing talent right here in the Pikes Peak region, ranging from the emerging artist to world class entertainers. Our goal is to create the opportunity for them to showcase their talents on the Stargazers' stage.” Along with the performance arts, there is room in the Stargazers foyer to display the talents of the visual artists in the area. In the past several years, hundreds of local artists have had the opportunity to display and sell their work to appreciative Stargazers guests.
We recently replaced the orignal 1969 theatre seats on our level 3 with new ones! Here is a short video about the adventure:
A Visit with the Hootons
How long have you been involved (in any capacity) with the Stargazers Theatre?
My husband, John and I purchased the very unique theatre building now known as Stargazers Theatre in April of 2008. We opened for our first event in February of 2009, after 10 months of extensive renovations which included all new heating and air conditioning, a fire suppression sprinkler system- as the building had never been fire sprinkled! and many cosmetic changes as well- including piecing together what was left of the large movie screen that the last owners had cut a huge rectangle into.For 10 months John and I worked side by side with contractors, electricians, carpenters, sheet rockers and pipe fitters. It was an amazing and challenging time, looking back on that we laugh and wonder how we did it! At times it felt more like an archeological dig than a remodel -there was so much construction debris at the end of each day that I collected it and created a series of collage style art pieces with the odds and ends, and I called the Series “Finding Stargazers.” Since opening in February 2009, we have hosted over 1500 events. It has been an amazing and growth filled experience – our learning curve was no curve- it was straight up!
The theatre building itself was originally built as a “state of the art” United Artists Cinerama 150 Movie theatre in 1969 and was designed by the Architect Vincent G. Rainey who built over a dozen of these type theatres at that time. Most of these theatres have been demolished or are no longer in use. This particular building has had several incarnations since 1969 – a Dollar Movie Theatre, a Country Western venue called Colorado Opery, A Rock and Roll Heavy Metal Venue called The Colorado Music Hall, and a Church.
What sort of influence do you think the theatre has had on the Colorado Springs community?
The theatre building itself has a lot of meaning to many longtime residents of our community -many times patrons have taken the time to personally thank John and I for bringing the building “back to life” as they describe, because the building holds so many good memories for them. In the past perhaps it was the place they held their very first job selling popcorn, or they saw the Rocky Horror picture show every weekend for months on end as a teenager or attended a country western concert when the building was known as the Colorado Opry Hall.
The current influence of the theatre can be summed up by our vision and focus for Stargazers Theatre - captured in our mission statement: “To Bring Great Entertainment to Great Audiences and to be a Warm and Welcoming Gathering Place for the Community.”
This is something we work hard on every day. We currently are the site for over 150 events per year that range from live music concerts in a wide variety of genres, to art shows, fundraisers and awareness events for non-profits, as well as independent film festivals, corporate events, political forums, and private events.
For our community art appreciators, we focus on providing an accessible, enjoyable, affordable, comfortable and inspirational experience, no matter what type of event they are joining us for. We keep our ticket prices as low as we can, providing free parking, reasonable prices on food and beverage, great customer service, great sound and a fun and unique environment. We feel that art belongs as a part of everyday life, not just on special, expensive occasions.
For our community artists, an important focus for us since the beginning of Stargazers is to spotlight the amazing amount of high quality talent that we have right here in Colorado Springs and along the front range and we do that by joining that talent with touring international or national talent whenever possible. We work to convince booking agents- sometimes not an easy task- that any of our concerts will have a much better turn out for their artist when we team them with a talented community artist that performs a similar genre. It is so amazing to see the artists meet and talk and exchange experiences and come away with inspiration and new ideas. The touring artist has an evening with a bigger crowd because of the influence of our community artists and our community artists win new local fans that may not have had the chance to get to know them previously.
“Stargazers is the premier live music venue in southern Colorado, bringing national acts to an intimate setting not to mention they are THE BIGGEST supporter of local music. I'm happy to say I've been a part of the Stargazers family since they opened the doors and I couldn't think of the Colorado Springs Art community without it!"
- Austin Johnson, Blues Guitarist and member of Justus League.
“Since the opening of Stargazers Theatre, few have done as much to promote the thriving Music & Arts Community in Colorado Springs as Cindy & John Hooton. They have done much to nourish the talents of many upcoming artists and musicians by giving them a place to display their talents. There is no doubt that this is truly a labor of love on their part.”
- Rikki Dee Hall, Founder and Lead Singer/ Guitarist, The Voodoo Hawks
We also work to support our community’s visual artists, established and “budding”, by providing gallery wall space in foyer and throughout the theatre offering the opportunity to sell their work without a heavy commission, an important perk for our established visual artists. We have literally sold artwork right off the wall! We are not open to the public every day, but we do have crowds of up to 500 during events and we do encourage them to enjoy the art, sometimes hosting openings for the artists on days that we have concerts and providing complimentary tickets to their guests for that evenings event.
For our budding visual artists, having their work displayed makes an important impact:
“As the Creative Director of Young Vision, an organization devoted to providing art programs for under-resourced and marginalized youth in this area, I am so grateful to the Hooton’s for their support in exhibiting artwork done by this population. The youth who have participated are validated in their efforts when their work is displayed in a public venue. This contributes immensely to their sense of self-worth and gives them confidence in their creative abilities.”
- Elizabeth Stanbro -Visual Artist and Art Teacher
Why do you think a thriving arts scene is important for Colorado Springs?
The basic traits of a successful city are strong businesses, affordable housing, recreation opportunities and a strong arts community. We have lived in Colorado Springs for many years and it is so exciting to see our arts scene exploding! We are thrilled to be in the company of so many others that work for the promotion of the arts every day. Art is that wonderful frosting on the cake of life!
How do you like to incorporate art into your life?
John has played the guitar and written songs since his young teens, I work in pastels – but right now Stargazers Theatre is our art form! With the many moving pieces it takes to create an enjoyable event, we use our creativity to the maximum every day. It can be exhausting and involves a lot of long hours to make it work but there is nothing more rewarding to us then to realize halfway through an event that something magical has occurred- we have paired the right artist with the right audience and they are enjoying each other and living totally in the moment- while creating wonderful memories together.