Meet the “Avengers” of the Lyric in Fort Collins: Working Hard to Ensure We All Stay Entertained

From Left to Right: Aaron Varnell, Maya Ortega, and Chris Stevens. Photo courtesy of The Lyric.

Jonson Kuhn | New SCENE

Hey, do you know about the Lyric in Fort Collins?  No, not the old location, you’re living in the past; I’m talking about the new(er) location at 1209 North College Ave.  They’ve been over there since 2017, so I’m not sure what the holdup is, ESPECIALLY now that the Covid mandates are over and life (seemingly) is going back to what we all remember it to be.  Look, no judgement, I’m the worst example; I work remotely from home and during the pandemic and/or torrential snowstorms, if there wasn’t a reason to leave my house, I didn’t go looking for one.  But that’s no way to live!  With a few recent trips to the Lyric, I’ve been reminded that life can be kinda rad when you’re not stuck on the couch, immersed in a series of endless streaming services.

I recently was fortunate enough to sit down with the (somewhat) recently formed ‘Avengers’ team owner Ben Mozer has assembled and tasked with running this new and improved version of the Lyric, and it was by far one of the more pleasurable interviews I’ve ever conducted.  Everybody’s hip and cool, with tats and piercings and nerdy glasses, all equipped with laptops because, despite our interview, idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and this crew doesn’t stop working tirelessly to serve the NOCO community they all love so well.

First I should tell you, my initial reason for going to the Lyric was because I saw they were showing the newest Batman movie and the tickets were ONLY TEN DOLLARS!!! Good luck finding anything for $10 these days, and though my original thought was to simply write a review about The Batman (because it’s quite possibly the greatest freaking movie I’ve ever seen in my freaking life) I quickly realized that there’s much more of a story to be shared; they’re not just showing movies, that barely scratches the surface of everything the Lyric has to offer.

“There is always something happening here.  We throw 15 to 20 events a week, every week.”  That’s Aaron Varnell, official Chaos Wrangler for the Lyric. “The past year or so we’ve figured out how to incorporate regular music and regular events and regular rentals into an existent full movie schedule.  We have six titles playing right now and we’re doing that on top of throwing constant events and we’ve figured out how to make it work[…]That was always the vision[…]I think this hard reset has put the Lyric on a trajectory it was always hoping to be on.”

Aaron started out by playing music at the Lyric shortly after the new building was constructed with his band Cactus Cat and simply from that experience, it inspired Aaron to jump onboard and he’s been working for the Lyric full time since June of last year.

In addition to showing new releases, something I personally have a lot of respect for is the Lyric’s effort to bring older or more avant-garde films to the screen, for instance they just wrapped up a showing of Akira Kurosawa’s timeless classic Seven Samurai to a sold-out crowd.  Chris Stevens, J.D., Professor Emeritus of Law and Moviefilms for the Lyric, is the man behind the curtain you SHOULD be paying attention to because his knowledge of films is crazy wide and selecting which crazy films get played isn’t a job he takes lightly in the slightest.

“We’re all artists and musicians and filmmakers ourselves, so we care a lot about telling stories and sharing that with the community.”

Chris started out with the Lyric just bartending (still does) but slowly worked his way up to curating the Lyric’s Cult Movie Night which is a FREE event every Wednesday at 8 pm.

“The Lyric’s always shown classics and deep cuts and we’re trying to carry on that tradition but make it more sustainable in this post-Covid business environment.  I think it’s great that we’re a music venue, but I think being an independent theater is important to who we are,” Chris added.

And speaking of who they are, no one probably understands that better than the Lyric’s Event Empress, Maya Ortega; she’s been with the company for a hot minute, having worked at the old location off of Mountain Avenue for five years.

“The old location was great for its geography, it was so close to downtown, but the main difference from the old space to the new is the size,” Maya said.  “I think the vibe has carried over, the ethos of being a community space, doing different artistic endeavors, both music and with film has maintained, but I think here because the space is so much larger, we’ve basically just been able to expand what we were capable of doing[…]I think because we have people here right now who are really doing what they’re good at, it makes everything that we do better.”

In addition to size, Maya brought up the point that the new location is also able to provide much more in the way of community outreach with somewhat of a brilliant concept she’s created to better assist local non-profits through a program called Everything Matters: Nonprofit Workshop Series. It’s free and centered around finding grants, how to write grants, marketing to different generations and even how to go about making a marketing kit. Next up for the series is Trout Tank: Nonprofit Pitch-A-Thon on May 23, where nonprofits will pitch their events or programing to “trouts,” who are corporate sponsors or donors.

“Our goal with Trout Tank is to showcase the incredible work being done in our community and connect them with generous donors and corporations who are cycling funds straight back into Northern Colorado. Plus, it’s going to be really fun!” Maya added.

And “fun” is truly the operative word at the Lyric!  But hey, don’t just take my word for it, cruise on over to their website and see for yourself!  And while you’re there, you might as well sign up for the Newsletter, too, because I guarantee you once you visit the Lyric one time, you’ll be going again and again, and the newsletter is the best way to stay up to date on the vast selection of events they offer.  While I’m thinking about it, hell, life’s short and so you might as well just sign up for their Membership while you’re at it.  I know what you’re saying, “but hey, doesn’t a membership like cost money, man?”  Well, sure, it does, but what doesn’t cost money these days and the mere $24 to $19 a month they ask for is literal chump change compared to everything you get for it.  I’m talking unlimited movies and events every month, $1 off any size popcorn, $1 off beer, wine and soda, members-only drink specials and events, as well as merchandise giveaways and discounts on theater rentals.

I’m telling you from personal experience, there’s no better way to watch a movie than at the Lyric because you can actually take alcohol into the theater (rather than having to sneak it in like with every other movie theater) and they have couches, so it won’t be too much of a dramatic transition from streaming movies in the comfort of your home.  So, that’s the Lyric!  And if you don’t know, now you know…respectable individual.

For more information, call 970-426-6767 or shoot an email to OR do the social media thing and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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