Isis Theater expected to start rolling in May

With Movieland indefinitely closed in El Jebel, Aspen’s Isis is only movie theater in the valley

The Isis Theater in downtown Aspen, the only commercial cinema in the Roaring Fork Valley, will open next month after being shuttered for 10 months due to COVID-19.

“We are hoping for late May,” said David Corwin, president of Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Theaters, which operates the Isis Theater. “We are gradually getting it together.”

The Isis closed initially in mid-March 2020 when the pandemic hit, and then re-opened in August only to shut down again in November.

Since the novel coronavirus swept across the world just over a year ago, the movie industry has changed significantly with a larger focus on online and on-demand streaming, and less production for the big screen.

Many new releases have been postponed as production companies are waiting for theaters to reopen.

“There’s not a lot of significant product left so we are guided by what’s going to be available,” Corwin said. “There’s not much between now and late May.”

He named significant titles like “A Quiet Place Part II,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Black Widow” to be part of the big screen summer lineup.

The Movieland theater owner in El Jebel said in December they are looking for renters for that seven-screen space and may not reopen, and the independently owned single-screen Crystal Theatre in Carbondale remains closed.

Corwin said he recognizes that people’s habits have changed when it comes to watching movies but he hopes the traditional theater experience is still appealing.

“People are watching anything and everything right now but I think it will get back to normal,” he said. “We are looking forward to welcoming you back soon.”

How the back rent of $186,000 is going to be paid is yet to be determined, since the city owns the theater portion of the Isis building on Hopkins Avenue.

The city partners with Aspen Film, where the nonprofit acts as the landlord and collects monthly lease payments from Metropolitan Theaters.

Aspen Film also has used the four-screen theater to produce short- and full-length film festivals.

City Finance Director Pete Strecker said Tuesday the last Isis rent payment to the municipal government was in March 2020.

Aspen Film’s rent is $15,649 a month, according to its lease with the city.

Aspen City Council last summer allowed Aspen Film to extend Metropolitan’s lease through January.

Council also deferred the rent payments by Aspen Film to the city from April 2020 through August, which equated to just under $80,000.

Council at the time agreed to allow up to two years to collect on deferred rent on the Isis.

The city took the $49,000 it had received from Aspen Film for the first three months of 2020, as well as $80,000 from the general fund, to make the September semi-annual payment on the debt service on the building, which currently equates to $2.1 million.

Strecker said an interest payment of $27,184 was due this spring, which also was paid out of the general fund.

Council is expected to approve that expenditure later this month during annual spring budget supplemental requests.

The city relies on Aspen Film’s rent to pay back the 30-year certificates of participation, or COPs, to investors who backed the Aspen government’s $7.5 million acquisition of the property in 2008. The partnership was created with the intention of preserving the theater.

Council has not given direction on rent deferral beyond September, nor has it weighed in on a lease extension for Metropolitan Theaters past January.

The situation, caused by the pandemic, has been the subject of multiple executive sessions with council.

“We are keeping council apprised and trying to get a solution to meet the community’s needs,” Strecker said. “I know they are trying to come up with a plan.”


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