Flick flap developing over outdoor movies at Wagner Park | AspenTimes.com
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Flick flap developing over outdoor movies at Wagner Park

Janet Urquhart

A proposal to reel in downtown visitors with outdoor movies at Wagner Park this summer may get poor reviews from the Highlands Merchants Association, which is planning its third summer of weekly outdoor flicks at the base of Aspen Highlands.

Aspen’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission has proposed Sunday Night at the Movies at Wagner Park as one of several ideas to boost activity in the downtown core.

The CCLC is also seeking funding from the City Council for what it calls Come to Town, a series of Friday night parties on the mall during the summer. The commission has also proposed the second annual Aspen Goes Bazaar in October.

In all, the CCLC is seeking $40,000 from the city to put on the events. The proposals and the funding requests will go to the council on Monday.

It’s the movies, though, that may not sit well with Highlands merchants, who sponsor free Tuesday night movies during the summertime to help invigorate the base village there.

In addition, downtown Aspen has two movie theaters.

“I guess it’s flattering that the idea we came up with for Highlands is a good one and that they want to replicate it,” said Jeanette Darnauer, whose Darnauer Group plans and markets activities at Highlands. “I’m very concerned, though … I believe it can and probably would dilute the positive impact of what we’re doing at Highlands.”

Highlands is part of the city, but is outside the core of town. Darnauer Group and the merchants there have been trying to brand Highlands Village as a fun alternative for locals and tourists looking for things to do, Darnauer said.

“Well, it’s not an alternative if the same things are going on in downtown Aspen,” she said.

Bill Dinsmoor, CCLC chairman, said the commission doesn’t see outdoor movies at Wagner Park as competing with the Tuesday night films at Highlands.

“We certainly wouldn’t want to do it on the same night,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to compete with them on it. We want it to be complementary.”

The CCLC actually started talking about outdoor movies at Wagner Park in 2001, but the proposal never went anywhere. Commission member John Starr, who had attended outdoor movies at Sydney Harbor in Australia, pushed the idea and went so far as to discuss the logistics with Laura Thielen, executive director of Aspen Filmfest.

“It’s actually something we’ve talked about for a long time,” said Thielen at the time.

The CCLC’s funding request to the council includes $5,000 for the movies, but the commission is seeking sponsorships that could eliminate the need for a city subsidy.

The commission is also seeking $15,000 for an expanded Aspen Goes Bazaar weekend, and $20,000 for Come to Town – an evening of fun and entertainment in the core that would involve restaurants and retailers. Dinsmoor said the CCLC will be looking for input from the business community on what shape Come to Town takes.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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