Drive-in and outdoor movie season begins with Rolling Stones film at Crown Mountain Park
IF YOU GO ...
What: Drive-In Movie Series, presented by TACAW and Crown Mountain Park
Where: Crown Mountain Park
When: Friday, June 19, 8:45 p.m.; July 24 & Aug. 21
How much: $10
More info: tacaw.org
The drive-in summer starts this weekend in the Roaring Fork Valley.
On Friday night, the Arts Campus at Willits (TACAW) and Crown Mountain Park on will host the first drive-in movie event at the temporary Crown Mountain exhibition venue, organized and approved as the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down most mass gatherings and entertainment venues.
This weekend’s sold-out midvalley event is the first in the series there and the opening of a summer where outdoor cinema experiences will be a cornerstone of the extremely limited number of in-person collective cultural experience available in the Roaring Fork Valley. A growing slate of presenters are taking movies outdoors in the summer of COVID-19.
In Snowmass Base Village, the second annual “Movies Under the Stars” series opens July 11 and runs through the end of August. Additonally, on Wednesday, Aspen Skiing Co. won approval for its drive-in venue at the Buttermilk Ski Area parking lot won approval to host movies and performances. An additional outdoor film series, organized by a consortium of nonprofits, is in the works for another venue in Aspen and remains under review by public health officials.
It all starts Friday with “The Rolling Stones: Havana Moon” at Crown Mountain, where TACAW has carved out space for 160 cars parked in eight rows in a checkerboard pattern, viewing the film on a 40-by-22-foot screen.
TACAW will host two more drive-in nights this summer, on July 24 and Aug. 21. Films haven’t yet been selected for those.
“Havana Moon” documents the Stones’ historic 2016 concert in Cuba, which drew an audience of 500,000 and — along with President Obama’s visit to Cuba the same week — signaled what seemed to be a new era for U.S.-Cuba relations. The two-hour film captures the band’s roaring 18-song performance of its greatest hits. The Stones themselves have described it as among their best shows in their five-plus decades as rock ’n’ roll royalty.
The familiar Stones songs and celebratory spirit of the film is what drew the TACAW and Crown Mountain teams to it as the first drive-in movie amid the crisis of the pandemic.
“We wanted to do something feel-good and upbeat and this fit the bill,” said TACAW executive director Ryan Honey.
In the dark and uncertain days of March, soon after stay-home orders went into effect and as the cascade of canceled summer events began, TACAW began exploring the drive-in concept.
“Like every arts organization, we started asking right away, ‘How do we do what we do?’” Honey recalled.
The TACAW team has experience planning nontraditional concerts and events, as it has had no physical venue of its own to host them since spring 2019, when the popular pop-up The Temporary closed. TACAW is breaking ground on its permanent space, in Willits Town Center, next week.
Drive-in movie theaters, a relic of pop culture past, had been drawing crowds at the remaining locations nationally. After researching the equipment they’d need to acquire and safety precautions they’d need to take, the TACAW team asked the Crown Mountain Park leadership about renting the space, then went to Eagle County for approvals.
Local audiences were clearly hungry for it. The “Havana Moon” event sold out almost immediately when tickets went on sale in May.
“We expected it to sell out,” Honey said. ”We didn’t expect it to sell out in an hour. … It was extraordinary and it speaks to people’s desire to come together as a community in a safe way.”
The relatively few drive-in movie theaters remaining in the U.S. have seen a boom in business since COVID-19 shut down public life and enclosed movie theaters in March. The socially distanced presentations allow people to gather without the close contact that health officials warn may spread the virus.
At the Crown Mountain screenings, there will be no concession stands or gathering outside of cars. But the event producers will be giving out a free bag of popcorn to everyone when they arrive and TACAW has teamed with midvalley restaurants to create drive-in takeout specials. New York Pizza, Capitol Creek Brewery and Sure Thing Burger in Basalt are takeout partners for the “Havana Moon” event.
TACAW is also launching its “Wednesday Night Live” series next week, bringing buskers and street performers to Basalt for a pedestrian-friendly, social distancing-adapted concert event. They’re teaming with the Town of Basalt and the Basalt Chamber for that series, running for 10 weeks from June 24 to Aug. 19.
These events, inspired by the limitations of the coronavirus pandemic, could potentially become a permanent thread in the fabric of events TACAW is plotting for its future.
“It’s forcing us to be creative,” Honey said. “The drive-in and busker events came out of this crisis, and may be part of our programming even after the pandemic. We don’t know. They could be ongoing.”