Isis Theatre may reopen in June | AspenTimes.com

Isis Theatre may reopen in June

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

An Idaho-based theater operator hopes to reopen Aspen’s Isis Theatre next month, parties negotiating the deal confirmed on Monday.

The deal hinges on the outcome of U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceedings on Wednesday in California. The court is expected to rule on the fate of the projectors and other vital equipment that was carted out of the Isis when Resort Theaters of America folded its Aspen operation more than a year ago.

Rocky Mountain Resort Cinemas Inc. has offered to purchase the projection, sound and concession equipment for $150,000, bring it back to Aspen and reinstall it in time for a planned June 21 reopening of the Isis, according to documents filed with the court.

The Isis LLC, which owns the Hopkins Avenue movie house, has been negotiating a lease with Rocky Mountain Resort Cinemas Inc., but the deal is not yet finalized, cautioned Heidi Houston. She is among the Isis owners and one of three real estate brokers who are marketing the theater, which has been for sale for about a year.

“Right now, everything looks good, but you never know,” she said yesterday.

“Everything is in the works is all I can say. We’re pushing,” confirmed Marshall Smith, president of Rocky Mountain Resort Cinemas in Hailey, Idaho.

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The Isis owners and RMRC are both awaiting a court order that would authorize the sale of assets that belong to Resort Theaters of America Inc. RTA filed for bankruptcy in October 2000 and abruptly pulled out of the Isis the following December, taking virtually everything but the seats, which it also owns.

The Isis LLC, a seven-member partnership, has offered to purchase the seats in the five auditoriums from RTA for $28,000.

Action by the bankruptcy court on Wednesday would give RMRC time to transport the equipment back to Aspen and reinstall it by the planned opening, according to a motion filed with the court. The equipment is currently in storage in Palm Desert, Calif.

Smith said Monday that he has been negotiating with the owners of the Aspen theater for the past year and a half.

“I hope something good is going to happen here really soon,” he said.

Smith, who declined to discuss his plans for the Isis in detail until the deal is finalized, said RMRC has specialized in operating movie theaters in resort towns for about a decade. At one time, the chain operated as many as 30 theaters, including some in Colorado, he said.

“Our family has been in the business for 35 years,” he said.

The Isis is “a treasure,” Smith added. “We intend to treat it with tender, loving care.”

Smith said he plans to be “aggressive” in selecting films for the Isis’ five screens, bringing everything from first-run movies to art films and “some surprises” to Aspen.

The Isis began as a one-screen theater in the historic H. Webber building in 1915.

Local developer Sam Houston and his partners purchased the theater from its former longtime operators, Dominic and Kitty Linza, in 1997. The new owners spent two years and about $10.2 million converting the funky, old theater into a state-of-the-art, five-screen venue.

RTA operated the expanded theater for just short of a year before pulling its operation out of Aspen, citing mounting financial losses.

Smith said yesterday he is confident the Isis can be operated profitably. More importantly, he said, Rocky Mountain Resort Cinemas is interested in making sure the Isis remains a movie theater.

“We’re going to be there for the long haul,” he said.

Heidi Houston declined to discuss the details of the proposed lease with RMRC, but said the building will remain for sale. The current asking price is $13.3 million.

A buyer could ultimately pursue other uses for the building, including conversion of the ground floor to retail space, she pointed out. The Isis currently contains two large cinemas on the ground floor and three smaller basement auditoriums. There are two employee housing units and a separately owned free-market penthouse on the third floor.

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