For Aspen Film and its future community participation, Tuesday was a significant day. The arts group Aspen Film is aiming to expand into a whole new area of what it will be able to foster for the community now that the Aspen City Council has authorized the acquisition of the Isis Theatre.
The acquisition deal will enable Aspen Film to buy the theater part of the Isis building, with an official closing date of October 14. The four separate cinema rooms, the concession booth spaces, and the restrooms are all located in this inside area.
The council decided to change one of the building’s covenants, allowing Aspen Film to enjoy internal naming rights of the four-screen complex, even if the name “Isis” must stay due to deed constraints.
According to Aspen Film Executive and Artistic Director Susan Wrubel, under the new ownership, the Isis Theatre will become a permanent and primary exhibition space for Aspen Film, giving the organization more creative control over programming, screenings, and events as well as more opportunities for the shared use of the space.
Most film societies use a physical location to carry out their programs, according to Wrubel. Therefore, being able to take over this area improves our relationship with the community and allows us the freedom to do much more for it.
Wrubel said before the municipal council meeting on Tuesday that against her expectations, the council members’ overwhelming support for the purchase was evident.
Hearing such excitement, according to Wrubel, was perhaps the nicest sensation he had had throughout his five years in Aspen.
She continued by saying that it was encouraging for Aspen Film to begin its new chapter with this level of support from the local government and community at large. It demonstrates how perseverance really pays off, according to Wrubel.
A decade before Wrubel assumed her current position of leadership, Aspen Film first leased the Isis Theatre from the city in 2007. Aspen Film was initially given the opportunity to buy the interior theater section of the Isis building about the time Wrubel joined the company, according to her, but it had predicated on the charity paying off a sizable debt to the city, its landlord.
Additionally, Aspen Film was subletting its theater spaces to Metropolitan Theatres, a Los Angeles-based business, at the time of Wrubel’s takeover. Metropolitan Theatres had been Aspen Film’s operator since the 2007 deal.
Even more difficulties arose for the Isis Theatre and its tenants when the epidemic ended the live movie-going experience and decimated theater enterprises worldwide. Aspen Film had to continue paying rent and HOA dues throughout the Isis’ 12-month closure, said to Wrubel. She spoke about the city’s assistance during this trying period.
It has been difficult for everyone in the show industry, according to Wrubel. “Most movie theaters still haven’t fully recovered”
Wrubel has been committed to Aspen Film acquiring the Isis Theatre space ever since it became a possibility, despite the pandemic and all of the other current factors at play. Instead of being constrained by use rights and scheduling issues, the executive director viewed its purchase as a promising chance to further engage the community in Aspen Film’s rich cinematic offerings.
With new ownership, the theater is now available for our exclusive use, according to Wrubel. Additionally, we are able to make it accessible to other nonprofits and groups in the region.
Wrubel then turned his attention to the future and described how Aspen Film is attempting to develop the Isis Theatre into more of a community idea and location. According to Wrubel, there are plans to designate one of the four theater rooms for education, providing a location for locals like teachers, students, and others to collaborate on film projects.
A number of interior enhancement projects are also in the works, including expanding the concession areas and building additional ADA-accessible facilities, including the upstairs toilet of the theater, according to Wrubel.
According to the executive director, Aspen Film will also try to revive the downstairs reception area so that it can host events and gatherings and will add a stage to an upstairs theater for more participatory programming with audiences, whether it be for guest speakers or post-screening forums.
A new grab-and-go café would also be included, with plans for it to be open every day for lunch and coffee and to have costs that “match with what Aspen folks are seeking for in these times,” according to Wrubel.
Although everything is still in the planning phases and is still being worked out, construction is scheduled to begin in 2023, according to Wrubel.
Aspen Film has hired Bow Tie Cinemas, a commercial movie theater operations business that now manages Movieland 7 in Basalt, to handle the cinema’s daily operations, including concession, ticketing, and maintenance. This is only one example of the internal changes that have taken place. Aspen Film, according to Wrubel, will have a more say in the actual film programming and showing dates.
According to Wrubel, Aspen Film will continue to utilize the Wheeler Opera House for festival screenings and other events while keeping its office space at the Red Brick Center for the Arts. Aspen Film now has a home for its exhibits thanks to the purchase of the Isis Theatre, and the group plans to use it to promote community participation via shared cinematic experiences.
The ability to carry out what is required for a community is crucial for all artistic groups, according to Wrubel. This is a paradigm shift.
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