Aspen embraces outdoor movies at Ajax Tavern (and everywhere else)
IF YOU GO …
What: DINNER + A MOVIE
Where: Ajax Tavern
When: Fridays through August; 8:30 p.m.
How much: $150 for picnic package (blanket, basket with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, fried chicken, kale slaw, potato snap pea salad, truffle popcorn and chocolate mud)
More info: littlenell.com; 970-920-6334
AJAX TAVERN MOVIE SCHEDULE
July 24 ‘Footloose’
July 31 ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’
August 7 ‘Overboard’
August 14 ‘The Mask of Zorro’
August 21 ‘Jurassic Park’
UPCOMING OUTDOOR MOVIES
July 24 ‘Monterey Pop’ at Crown Mountain Park Drive-In ($19)
July 25 ‘Accomplice’ at Buttermilk Drive-In ($40)
July 25 “Shrek” at Snowmass Movies Under the Stars (Free)
July 29 ‘Karate Kid’ at Buttermilk Drive-In
Aug. 6 & 7 ‘The Lion King’ at Snowmass Drive-In (Free)
Aug. 8 “Mrs. Doubtfire” at Snowmass Movies Under the Stars
Aug. 15 “The Incredibles” at Snowmass Movies Under the Stars
Aug. 22 “Monsters Inc.” at Snowmass Movies Under the Stars
Sept. 3 & 4 ‘The Queen of Katwe’ at Snowmass Drive-In
It was just “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Just a box of fried chicken. Just a comfortable lounge chair, a blanket and a cool starry night at the base of Aspen Mountain with my wife.
But nothing, of course, is just as simple as it used to be. And small pleasures these days feel like extravagant gifts from the universe. The new Dinner + a Movie program at the Ajax Tavern is among the purest of pleasures in Aspen this strange summer.
The Tavern’s movie night is the best COVID-safe date night going in Aspen. The concept couldn’t be simpler: classic movies projected on a big blow-up screen on the lawn at the base of Aspen Mountain, with a no-touch picnic meal consisting of a box of fried chicken, bagged popcorn and a pre-wrapped dessert — delivered by masked servers — along with (because, pandemic or not, this is still a Little Nell party) a bottle of Veuve Clicquot on ice.
On the lawn, they’ve brought out the comfy pool lounge chairs, but there’s also room for blankets. Across the rest of the gondola plaza, socially distanced restaurant seating has taken over with high-top tables and spaced-out patio dining.
The movie starts as the moon rises and the stars come out above (early in the film on the night we attended a deer wandered around under the Nell chairlift).
Watching “Ferris Bueller,” giggling with my wife and dipping a chicken leg in some barbecue sauce — after four-plus months of staying at home for entertainment — felt like the height of cultural experience for 2020. It felt like a night at the symphony, the ballet, a Beyonce stadium show. Or, sure, a night out at the movie theater, which I miss so sorely. … We were out! Doing something! It was fun! And with masks and distancing and all the protocols in place at the event, we were given no need to worry about risking spreading the virus for the sake of our fun.
It does get cold at these outdoor screenings, as the hour passes 10 p.m. But you’ve got a blanket and you can bring layers and a hat. And I thought there’d be more talking, more crowd noise. Surely everybody’d seen “Ferris Bueller” before, surely nobody’s there to just be quiet and watch the movie. But apparently we all were satisfied doing just that, to have a quiet and communal and distanced experience, which was great.
It’s no wonder these outdoor cinemas are popping up everywhere.
No less than six public outdoor movie venues have sprung up this summer here, including the already-established Movies Under the Stars events at Snowmass Base Village (which are free; they’re showing “Shrek” this weekend).
The midvalley rock ’n’ roll-themed “At the Drive-In” series at Crown Mountain Park — produced by the Arts Campus at Willits, showing “Monterey Pop” this weekend — was met with huge enthusiasm and a sell-out crowd when it premiered in June. That was followed by the one-off weekend drive-in at Aspen Meadows (which was free but somehow reached capacity for reservations even before the event was publicly announced). Aspen Skiing Co. this month started hosting drive-in screenings at Buttermilk Ski Area— on the stage built for high school graduation — which continue this weekend with the new Teton Gravity Research mountain biking flick “Accomplice,” a different programming spin than the classic fare to which most series are adhering. And at Snowmass Town Park, the free Snowmass Drive-In is now up and running, too, and picks up again Aug. 6 and 7 with “The Lion King.”
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