By Cathy Reilly
Inventing the Abbotts. The Brothers McMullen. The Spitfire Grill. Iris. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Monster. These are just a handful of the many films I have seen over the last couple of decades at Kimball’s Peak Three Theater, where I have both laughed and cried. I just read that Kimball Bayless, the theater’s namesake, has passed away from cancer. While I only met him once or twice, I am so very saddened to hear of his death. What he provided to Colorado Springs greatly enriched my life. And for that I am profoundly grateful.
My interest in out-of-the-mainstream films started when I was a student in the early ‘80s at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I attended an international film series on campus and that was my introduction to avant garde flicks, as well as a chance to further my interest in movies filmed in other countries, often screened with subtitles. (It’s a great way to increase one’s aptitude in other languages, I might add.) At that time in Boulder there were two small movie houses that also fed my penchant for international film fare as well as smaller budget and independent projects. I was certain that I had achieved movie nirvana! When I ended up in Colorado Springs in the early spring of 1986, it wasn’t long before I found Poor Richard’s and was able to continue to indulge my movie-going habit there. And just a couple of months ago, I received a newsletter emailed to Poor Richard’s devotees. It mentioned community members who had worked with his businesses over the years and one of them was Kimball Bayless. The newsletter noted that Kimball ran movies at Richard’s for two years in the early ‘90s before Kimball and his wife Sabrina opened Peak Three.
The first film I watched at their art house on Pikes Peak Avenue is lost to the ages, but I can well remember that the newly redone venue was a marked improvement (and then some) over the movie theater that had previously been in that location. Not only were there wonderful films to choose from, but at times there were panini type sandwiches and baked goods that one could buy along with the more standard offerings of popcorn and candy. Not to mention the bar! While Kimball’s wasn’t the first movie house to offer alcoholic beverages, they have a decent selection of wines and the prices couldn’t be beat. (Yummy coffee, too!) Pure decadence in my book.
One summer in the ‘90s, my dad visited me from Florida and I took him to Kimballs where we watched the marvelous film Waking Ned Devine. (If you have never seen it, you are in for a real treat!) Daddy just LOVED it, and I felt a pang of regret that I had never thought to get him to Ireland, where the film was set. Seeing that film together might have been the next best thing to that in giving us both a glimpse into life on the Emerald Isle, land of his father’s family.
When my older two children were toddlers, I had a sitter for them every Friday afternoon and would scan the paper eagerly in advance of that for what would be showing at Kimball’s. In late 1996, I watched The Big Night, another great movie, centered around a meal of Italian cuisine planned by two chefs. (The reason for the feast in the film’s plot was a greatly anticipated visit from the famous singer Louis Prima.) I was about seven-months pregnant with my youngest at that time and I swear I could smell the garlic being sauteed in olive oil on the screen. (Of course, I just had to go have some pasta after that!) Following my youngest’s arrived, I would often continue my end of the weekly movie tradition, more often than not, at Kimball’s. I would feed her, she’d fall asleep in my arms and I would watch my selection of that week’s offerings on the big screen. Ahhh, bliss!
My dear Shelley often accompanied me on my film soirees and one fun time we watched the John Sayles film, Sunshine State, set in Florida. As we had both lived there in our younger years, much of it rang true for us. I well recall laughing when I realized that Shell was slapping at fake insects as a joke. Those of us in the know about Florida are well versed in the bugs!
In the fall of 2004, a bit of Hollywood came to Kimball’s with the premiere of Silver City, another Sayles film. It spoke to some of the issues in the upcoming 2004 general election. Not only was it filmed in Colorado, some of the film’s cast even attended. I got to fangirl over Mary Kay Place and tell her how I’d enjoyed her work since first watching her in Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in the 1970s. And sitting nearby her was Kris Kristofferson! I later heard from a fellow Democrat who attended the after event that evening, which if memory serves was a fundraiser for the El Paso County party, how she’d learned to wolf whistle that night under the tutelage of Daryl Hannah. Such fun!
There were also family films that screened at Kimball’s. One blistering hot summer day I took my three kids to see the documentary March of the Penguins. We all enjoyed that endearing production while savoring both the icy locale on the screen and the air conditioning inside.
One of the last movies I attended at Kimball’s before COVID reared its ugly head was 1918. And then suddenly, the world shut down and none of us knew when we’d be able to go to the theaters again. Just as that was in the offing, I stopped by Kimball’s and bought a pass, as a small gesture of support for my beloved local art house. But it was also an act of faith that we would get through the trials ahead and that there would come a time in the future when attending a movie in a theater could again be possible. I held on to that piece of cardstock for two and a half years and finally returned there with my husband in November to see The Banshees of Inisherin. That was a few hours of pure enjoyment in a place that I have loved for so long. Thank you to Kimball and Sabrina, for making it all possible. To Kimball’s family and friends, I am so sorry for your loss. It is shared by the community as he made our town a better place by being part of it. Thank you, Kimball, for the memories.